In the United States, divided government describes a situation in which one party controls the White House (executive branch), while another party controls one or both houses of the United States Congress (legislative branch). Divided government is seen by different groups as a benefit or as an undesirable product of the model of governance used in the U.S. political system. Under said model, known as the separation of powers, the state is divided into different branches. Each branch has separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with the powers associated with the others. The degree to which the president of the United States has control of Congress often determines their political strength, such as the ability to pass sponsored legislation, ratify treaties, and have Cabinet members and judges approved. Early in the 19th century, divided government was rare but since the 1970s it has become increasingly common.

The model can be contrasted with the fusion of powers in a parliamentary system where the executive and legislature (and sometimes parts of the judiciary) are unified. Those in favor of divided government believe that such separations encourage more policing of those in power by the opposition, as well as limiting spending and the expansion of undesirable laws.[1] Opponents, however, argue that divided governments become lethargic, leading to many gridlocks. In the late 1980s, Terry M. Moe, a professor of political science at Stanford University, examined the issue.[2] He concluded that divided governments lead to compromise which can be seen as beneficial, but he also noticed that divided governments subvert performance and politicize the decisions of executive agencies. Additionally, further research has shown that during divided governments, legislatures will pass laws with sunset provisions in order to achieve a political consensus.[3]

Party control of legislative and executive branches

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Party control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives (including president's party): 1855–2025[4][5][6]

List

Key

Year Senate House
President
party
President
1861–1863 R R R Lincoln
1863–1865 R R R
1865–1867 R R D A. Johnson
1867–1869 R R D
1869–1871 R R R Grant
1871–1873 R R R
1873–1875 R R R
1875–1877 R D R
1877–1879 R D R Hayes
1879–1881 D D R
1881–1883 R[a] R R Garfield / Arthur
1883–1885 R D R Arthur
1885–1887 R D D Cleveland
1887–1889 R D D
1889–1891 R R R Harrison
1891–1893 R D R
1893–1895 D D D Cleveland
1895–1897 R R D
1897–1899 R R R McKinley
1899–1901 R R R
1901–1903 R R R McKinley / T. Roosevelt
1903–1905 R R R T. Roosevelt
1905–1907 R R R
1907–1909 R R R
1909–1911 R R R Taft
1911–1913 R D R
1913–1915 D D D Wilson
1915–1917 D D D
1917–1919 D D[b] D
1919–1921 R R D
1921–1923 R R R Harding
1923–1925 R R R Harding / Coolidge
1925–1927 R R R Coolidge
1927–1929 R R R
1929–1931 R R R Hoover
1931–1933 R D R
1933–1935 D D D F. Roosevelt
1935–1937 D D D
1937–1939 D D D
1939–1941 D D D
1941–1943 D D D
1943–1945 D D D
1945–1947 D D D F. Roosevelt / Truman
1947–1949 R R D Truman
1949–1951 D D D
1951–1953 D D D
1953–1955 R[c] R R Eisenhower
1955–1957 D D R
1957–1959 D D R
1959–1961 D D R
1961–1963 D D D Kennedy
1963–1965 D D D Kennedy / Johnson
1965–1967 D D D Johnson
1967–1969 D D D
1969–1971 D D R Nixon
1971–1973 D D R
1973–1975 D D R Nixon / Ford
1975–1977 D D R Ford
1977–1979 D D D Carter
1979–1981 D D D
1981–1983 R D R Reagan
1983–1985 R D R
1985–1987 R D R
1987–1989 D D R
1989–1991 D D R G.H.W. Bush
1991–1993 D D R
1993–1995 D D D Clinton
1995–1997 R R D
1997–1999 R R D
1999–2001 R R D
2001–2003 D[d] R R G.W. Bush
2003–2005 R R R
2005–2007 R R R
2007–2009 D D R
2009–2011 D D D Obama
2011–2013 D R D
2013–2015 D R D
2015–2017 R R D
2017–2019 R R R Trump
2019–2021 R D R
2021–2023 D[e] D D

Biden

2023–2025 D R D
Year Senate House
President
party
President

Presidential impact

Many presidents' elections produced what is known as a coattail effect, in which the success of a presidential candidate also leads to electoral success for other members of their party. In fact, all newly elected presidents except Zachary Taylor, Richard Nixon, and George H. W. Bush were accompanied by control of at least one house of Congress.

Presidents by congressional control and terms

Most columns are in numbers of years.

No. President President's party Elections won Years served Senate with Senate opposed House with House opposed Congress with Congress divided Congress opposed
1 George Washington None 2 8 8 0 4 4 4 4 0
2 John Adams Federalist 1 4 4 0 4 0 4 0 0
3 Thomas Jefferson Democratic-Republican 2 8 8 0 8 0 8 0 0
4 James Madison Democratic-Republican 2 8 8 0 8 0 8 0 0
5 James Monroe Democratic-Republican 2 8 8 0 8 0 8 0 0
6 John Quincy Adams Democratic-Republican National-Republican 1 4 0 4 2 2 0 2 2
7 Andrew Jackson Democratic 2 8 6 2 8 0 6 2 0
8 Martin Van Buren Democratic 1 4 4 0 4 0 4 0 0
9 William Harrison Whig 1 0.1 0.1 0 0.1 0 0.1 0 0
10 John Tyler Whig Independent 0 3.9 3.9 0 1.9 2 1.9 2 0
11 James Polk Democratic 1 4 4 0 2 2 2 2 0
12 Zachary Taylor Whig 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 1
13 Millard Fillmore Whig 0 3 0 3 0 3 0 0 3
14 Franklin Pierce Democratic 1 4 4 0 2 2 2 2 0
15 James Buchanan Democratic 1 4 4 0 2 2 2 2 0
16 Abraham Lincoln Republican National Union 2 4.1 4.1 0 4.1 0 4.1 0 0
17 Andrew Johnson Democratic National Union 0 3.9 0 3.9 0 3.9 0 0 3.9
18 Ulysses Grant Republican 2 8 8 0 6 2 6 2 0
19 Rutherford Hayes Republican 1 4 2 2 0 4 0 2 2
20 James Garfield Republican 1 0.5 0[a] 0.5 0.5 0 0 0.5 0
21 Chester Arthur Republican 0 3.5 3.5[a] 0 1.5 2 1.5 2 0
22 Grover Cleveland Democratic 1 4 0 4 4 0 0 4 0
23 Benjamin Harrison Republican 1 4 4 0 2 2 2 2 0
24 Grover Cleveland Democratic 1 4 2 2 2 2 2 0 2
25 William McKinley Republican 2 4.5 4.5 0 4.5 0 4.5 0 0
26 Theodore Roosevelt Republican 1 7.5 7.5 0 7.5 0 7.5 0 0
27 William Taft Republican 1 4 4 0 2 2 2 2 0
28 Woodrow Wilson Democratic 2 8 6 2 6[b] 2 6 0 2
29 Warren Harding Republican 1 2.4 2.4 0 2.4 0 2.4 0 0
30 Calvin Coolidge Republican 1 5.6 5.6 0 5.6 0 5.6 0 0
31 Herbert Hoover Republican 1 4 4 0 2 2 2 2 0
32 Franklin Roosevelt Democratic 4 12.2 12.2 0 12.2 0 12.2 0 0
33 Harry Truman Democratic 1 7.8 5.8 2 5.8 2 5.8 0 2
34 Dwight Eisenhower Republican 2 8 2[c] 6 2 6 2 0 6
35 John Kennedy Democratic 1 2.8 2.8 0 2.8 0 2.8 0 0
36 Lyndon Johnson Democratic 1 5.2 5.2 0 5.2 0 5.2 0 0
37 Richard Nixon Republican 2 5.6 0 5.6 0 5.6 0 0 5.6
38 Gerald Ford Republican 0 2.4 0 2.4 0 2.4 0 0 2.4
39 Jimmy Carter Democratic 1 4 4[f] 0[f] 4 0 4 0 0
40 Ronald Reagan Republican 2 8 6 2 0 8 0 6 2
41 George H. W. Bush Republican 1 4 0 4 0 4 0 0 4
42 Bill Clinton Democratic 2 8 2[g] 6 2 6 2 0 6
43 George W. Bush Republican 2 8 4.5[d] 3.5[d] 6 2 4.5 1.5 2
44 Barack Obama Democratic 2 8 6 2 2 6 2 4 2
45 Donald Trump Republican 1 4 4 0 2 2 2 2 0
46 Joe Biden Democratic 1 3 3[e] 0 2 1 2 1 0
No. President President's party Elections won Years served Senate with Senate opposed House with House opposed Congress with Congress divided Congress opposed

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c The 1880-81 elections resulted in a 37-37 tie in the Senate, with 1 Readjuster and 1 Independent caucusing with the opposite parties. The Constitution gives tie-breaking power to the vice president, which was Republican Chester A. Arthur for part of the 47th Congress, then left vacant after his accession.
  2. ^ a b The 1916 elections resulted in the Republican Party winning a plurality of seats, but the Democratic Party formed a coalition government with the Progressive Party and Socialist Party.
  3. ^ a b The 1952 elections resulted in a 49-47 Republican majority, but Wayne Morse switched to become an Independent, and vacancies resulted in a tied Senate for part of the Congress. The Constitution gives tie-breaking power to the vice president, which for most of the 83rd Congress was Republican Richard Nixon.
  4. ^ a b c The 2000 elections resulted in a 50–50 tie in the Senate, and the Constitution gives tie-breaking power to the vice president. The vice president during most of the 107th Congress was Republican Dick Cheney. Then on May 24, 2001, Republican Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican Party to caucus with the Democrats as an independent, resulting in Democrats gaining the Senate majority.
  5. ^ a b The 2020 elections resulted in a 50–50 tie in the Senate, and the Constitution gives tie-breaking power to the vice president. The vice president during most of the 117th Congress was Democrat Kamala Harris.
  6. ^ a b Carter served the last 17 days of his presidency with a Republican majority Senate.
  7. ^ Clinton served the last 17 days of his 2nd term with a 50-50 majority in the senate, and the Constitution gives tie-breaking power to the vice president. During this brief period, Democrat Al Gore was the tie breaker until Republican Dick Cheney was sworn in and broke the tie in favor of the Republicans.

References

  1. ^ "Would Divided Government Be Better?". Cato Institute. 3 September 2006. Archived from the original on 7 July 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  2. ^ Moe, Terry (1989). "The Politics of Bureaucratic Structure". Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  3. ^ Dorssom, Elizabeth I. (March 21, 2021). "Does Legislative Institutionalization Impact Policy Adoption? New Evidence from the Colonial and Early State Legislatures 1757–1795". Social Science Quarterly. 102 (4): 1451–1465. doi:10.1111/ssqu.12956. S2CID 233619783.
  4. ^ "Party In Power - Congress and Presidency - A Visual Guide To The Balance of Power In Congress, 1945-2008". Uspolitics.about.com. Archived from the original on November 1, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  5. ^ "Chart of Presidents of the United States". Filibustercartoons.com. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  6. ^ "Composition of Congress by Party 1855–2013". Infoplease.com. Retrieved September 17, 2012.

Further reading