If history can be the guide, 2012 may offer a break from gridlock in Washington, D.C., the National Journal’s Major Garrett said on Monday’s “The Early Show” on CBS.
“If you were to predict future behavior in 2012, you’d look back on 2012 and say, ‘Yes, we’re going to be in for another full year of gridlock,’” Garrett said. “Election years tend to impose that anyway. But I would offer this cautionary observation. I look back in 1995 and 1996. That was the first time we had a Republican Congress going up against a Democratic president in a good, long while. In that first year, Bill Clinton’s success rate with Republican House was 23 percent, among the lowest rates ever in American history. The next year, an election year, 1996 it was 56 percent.”
But, Garrett said, political opportunism prevailed over the gridlock heading into the 1996 presidential election.
“Why? Because Republicans in Congress changed their behavior,” he continued. “They knew if they didn’t work out deals with that Democratic president, they might lose their job. Politicians are structural opportunists, so I would say is there a possibility when you look at the very low ratings for this Congress, a very high sense the American public has that even their or own member of Congress should be thrown out of office, behavior might change in 2012. We might see a breaking of some of the gridlock.”
Early in President Barack Obama’s term as president, he had an astounding, unprecedented success rate of 96.7 percent with Congress. But Obama’s success with Congress has ground to a halt after the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans gained the majority in the House of Representatives, .
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“The Early Show” co-host Jeff Glor asked if executive orders were a possible way to break the gridlock. Only at the margins, Garrett said.
“Executive power is a temptation and the executive order is a temptation for the president,” he said. “But remember, executive orders only change policy within the executive branch — they can’t affect American behavior in a large or long-lasting way. American presidents know that but can use executive orders to nudge Congress in certain directions. If there is a return of that sort of sense of permanent gridlock, executive orders will remain a temptation and, at the margins, change behaviors and policy.”