Special Report

Presidents With the Best and Worst Relationships With Congress

Hristina Byrnes, John Harrington

Grover Cleveland
> Years served: 1885-1889 and 1893-1897
> Relationship with Congress score: 53.6 (22nd lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 54.7 (22nd lowest)
> Party affiliation: Democrat

Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, was considered to be more concerned with stopping Congress from giving privileges to friends than implementing his own legislative plans. He vetoed private pension bills, including one that would have given pensions for disability not caused by military service. He also vetoed a bill to provide relief to drought-stricken farmers in Texas because he thought such assistance was not the job of the national government.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Andrew Jackson
> Years served: 1829 – 1837
> Relationship with Congress score: 53.7 (21st highest)
> Crisis leadership score: 73.5 (10th highest)
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican

Andrew Jackson was the first president to be censured — a formal statement of disapproval of the president — by Congress. Jackson had refused to hand over classified documents regarding his veto, which was later overruled, of a bill to renew the national bank’s charter. Jackson had dismantled the bank because he thought it favored the rich and had too many foreign investors. Congress accused Jackson of executing power not authorized by the Constitution.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Ulysses S. Grant
> Years served: 1869-1877
> Relationship with Congress score: 54.6 (20th highest)
> Crisis leadership score: 58.7 (21st highest)
> Party affiliation: Republican

Ulysses S. Grant, considered an American hero for leading the Union Army to victory during the Civil War, focused his presidency on Reconstruction. He was in favor of pardons of Confederate leaders and protecting the rights of former slaves. He sent federal troops to states where violence was used to stop black people from voting. Those who opposed his policies said he violated states’ rights. As a result, a group of Republicans, who also thought Grant was corrupt, broke out and formed the Liberal Republican Party.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Gerald R. Ford
> Years served: 1974 – 1977
> Relationship with Congress score: 54.9 (19th highest)
> Crisis leadership score: 53.6 (20th lowest)
> Party affiliation: Republican

President Gerald R. Ford, a Republican, did not get along with the Democrat controlled Congress. He vetoed more bills than he signed into laws. Ford became president following Nixon’s resignation, and his reputation suffered after he pardoned Nixon “for all offenses against the United States.” He even testified before Congress, the first time a president has done so, explaining his decision. His party disliked him because he appointed a liberal as vice president.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

William J. Clinton
> Years served: 1993-2001
> Relationship with Congress score: 55.1 (17th highest)
> Crisis leadership score: 61.5 (18th highest)
> Party affiliation: Democrat

The time of Bill Clinton’s presidency was the most peaceful and economically prosperous in U.S. history — he even achieved a budget surplus. But Clinton could not get his health care reform passed through Congress. A disagreement between Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich over cuts to Medicare and other programs led to several government shutdowns. Congress impeached Clinton for lying to a grand jury about his affair with Monica Lewinsky and obstruction of justice. He was acquitted.