Visual Guide: The Balance Of Power Between Congress and The Presidency (1945-2013)

Which party controls Congress? Which, the White House? The answer reveals the “balance of power” in the two branches of government that have elected officials (Congress and the White House).

Americans seem to prefer that the checks-and-balances envisioned by the founders be facilitated by having different parties control Congress and the White House.

Contrary to popular belief, most of the time (in modern political history) Congress and the President are at odds; that is, most of the time the same political party does not control the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. Only 13 times (26 years) since 1945 have both branches of Congress and the Presidency been controlled by the same party; the Democrats have held this advantage more often than Republicans (11 to 2).

At the same time, Congress has usually been controlled by the same party. The “odd man out” has literally been the President. Since 1945, the House and Senate have been controlled by different parties only seven times (14 years) — but three of those have been since the 2000 elections, which makes this “seem” more normal than it is, historically. And there have been only two complete turn-overs of Congress since 1949: one in 1995 and the other in 2007.

Updated: 4 November 2014

Year Congress President Senate (100) House (435)
2015 113th D R: 53 (est) R: 246 (est)
2013 112th D D: 52-46-2 R: 232-200 ****
2011 112th D D: 56-42-2 R: 241-193
2009 – Obama 111th D D – 57*** D – 256
2007 110th R D – 49** D – 233
2005 109th R R – 55 R – 232
2003 108th R R – 51 R – 229
2001 – Bush 107th R D* R – 221
1999 106th D R – 55 R – 223
1997 105th D R – 55 R – 228
1995 104th D R – 52 R – 230
1993 – Clinton 103rd D D – 57 D – 258
1991 102nd R D – 56 D – 267
1989 – Bush 101st R D – 55 D – 260
1987 100th R D – 55 D – 258
1985 99th R R – 53 D – 253
1983 98th R R – 54 D – 269
1981 – Reagan 97th R R – 53 D – 242
1979 96th D D – 58 D – 277
1977 – Carter 95th D D – 61 D – 292
1975 94th R D – 60 D -291
1973 93rd R D – 56 D – 242
1971 92nd R D – 54 D – 255
1969 – Nixon 91st R D – 57 D – 243
1967 90th D D – 64 D – 247
1965 89th D D – 68 D – 295
1963 – Johnson 88th D D – 66 D – 259
1961 – JFK 87th D D – 64 D – 263
1959 86th R D – 65 D -283
1957 85th R D – 49 D – 232
1955 84th R D – 48 D – 232
1953 – Eisenhower 83rd R R – 48 D – 221
1951 82nd D D – 49 D – 235
1949 81st D D – 54 D – 263
1947 80th D R – 51 R – 246
1945 – Truman 79th D D – 57 D – 242

Yellow years mark Presidential inauguration.

Sources:
Senate, House, Janda

* There were 50 Ds and 50 Rs until May 24, 2001, when Sen. James Jeffords (R-VT) switched to Independent status, effective June 6, 2001; he announced that he would caucus with the Democrats, giving the Democrats a one-seat advantage.

** Two Independents (Lieberman-CT and Sanders-VT). Lieberman was reelected in 2006 as an independent candidate and became an Independent Democrat;  Sanders was elected in 2006 as an Independent.

*** Two Independents (Lieberman-CT and Sanders-VT);  Arlen Specter (PA) was reelected in 2004 as a  Republican and became a Democrat on April 30, 2009.

**** House data (3 vacancies); Senate independents caucus with Democrats

RELATED: Visual Guide : The President v the Senate (Confirmed Nominations)

 

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I created this table (and introductory narrative) while I was the US Politics guide at About.com. I left that position in March 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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