Special Report

Presidents With the Best and Worst Relationships With Congress

Source: National Archives / Newsmakers / Getty Images

John Quincy Adams
> Years served: 1825-1829
> Relationship with Congress score: 44.3 (12th lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 54.1 (21st lowest)
> Party affiliation: Multiple parties

President John Q. Adams accomplished only a few significant reforms while in office because of strong opposition from Congress, especially Jacksonians, who supported reducing restrictions on voting. Adams proposed establishing a national university and giving territory to Native Americans in the West. Congress argued that Adams’ policies exceeded his federal power and did not support them. During the election campaign for a second term, his challenger accused him of corruption, and Adams did not win reelection.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Herbert Hoover
> Years served: 1929 – 1933
> Relationship with Congress score: 44.9 (13th lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 29.7 (4th lowest)
> Party affiliation: Republican

Herbert Hoover was president during the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression. He was blamed for most of the problems, especially as the crisis deepened and he vetoed several bills passed by Congress that would have provided direct help to Americans. He believed that the government should not be very involved in the economy, as it could be a threat to capitalism. He initiated some emergency measures to prevent the collapse of the agricultural industry.

Source: National Archives / Newsmakers / Getty Images

Rutherford B. Hayes
> Years served: 1877-1881
> Relationship with Congress score: 45.8 (14th lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 45.7 (14th lowest)
> Party affiliation: Republican

President Rutherford B. Hayes oversaw the end of Reconstruction. Republicans were not happy that he appointed Southerners to federal positions and authorized money to be spent to make improvements in the South. They also did not like that Hayes tried to reform the civil service by ending political patronage. He vetoed the Bland-Allison Act, which required the Treasury to purchase silver and put it in circulation as silver dollars, but Congress overrode the veto.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Chester A. Arthur
> Years served: 1881-1885
> Relationship with Congress score: 45.9 (15th lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 42.8 (12th lowest)
> Party affiliation: Republican

President Chester A. Arthur was known for moving past partisanship after he was elected. He is mostly remembered for signing the Pendleton Civil Service Act, which made federal government jobs obtainable through an exam, protected people from being fired for political reasons, and established a bipartisan Civil Service Commission to enforce the law. Republicans saw his support for this law as a betrayal. Congress and Arthur could not agree on lowering tariffs. He vetoed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which meant to ban immigration of Chinese workers for a decade, but Congress overrode his veto.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Martin Van Buren
> Years served: 1837-1841
> Relationship with Congress score: 47.9 (16th lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 41.1 (9th lowest)
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican

Martin Van Buren was president during the financial panic of 1837. His debate with Congress over his proposal for the creation of an independent treasury, which passed, was so bitter it drove some Democrats into the Whig Party.Van Buren also supported cutting off all federal government expenses in order to keep the government running.

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