According to the Washington Times Legislative Index, President Obama will go down in history with the worst legislative record of any modern president.
Over 8 years, he has signed 1227 laws – less than one term presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.
On the other hand, Congress spent less time in session than any other Congress and handled less floor business.
Blame for the poor showing falls across Washington. Some analysts say a Congress with four years of divided control hamstrung Mr. Obama, while others say the president failed to find ways to work with the legislature that voters gave him — particularly after the 2010 elections.
“The president was never good at reaching across the aisle. So when the composition of Congress changed relative to what it was in his first two years, he wasn’t able to accommodate that very well,” said Andrew Busch, a presidential scholar at Claremont McKenna College in California. “He never accustomed himself to operating in a system where he was not the sole player.”
It’s all the more stunning for Mr. Obama having emerged from the legislature himself, having served first in the Illinois Statehouse and then in the U.S. Senate, where he spent two years in a Republican-controlled Congress and two years in a Democrat-run Congress.
He was the first president since John F. Kennedy to make the leap directly from Capitol Hill to the White House, but he took a mostly hands-off approach, leaving his former colleagues on their own to hash out the details of bills.
“Could he have potentially reached out more? I think that’s a fair criticism,” said Joshua C. Huder, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.
But he said lawmakers on Capitol Hill were putting up more roadblocks than they did to previous presidents — particularly when power was split in the House and Senate in the 112th and 113th congresses.
The White House didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment, but Mr. Obama, in his farewell speech, ticked off a list of accomplishments: working on the economy, bolstering the auto industry, opening diplomatic relations with Cuba, striking a nuclear deal with Iran, ordering the assault that killed Osama bin Laden, arguing for same-sex marriage in the courts and enacting Obamacare. Of those, only health care and the economy required work with Congress.
Mr. Obama’s best years were in 2009 and 2010, when his fellow Democrats held massive majorities in both the House and Senate. He achieved legacy-defining laws including Obamacare, the 2009 stimulus and a new set of rules for Wall Street in the Dodd-Frank legislation.
Blaming it all on Congress is easy, and certainly they should be held accountable for their inaction, especially on the budget. But the bottom line is that nothing got done because the president either didn’t know how or failed to lead.
Compare the work done by President Reagan in getting his tax bill passed with President Obama’s efforts following the 2010 electoral debacle for Democrats. Any president can pass legislation when your party enjoys a massive advantage in the House and a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. But once Obama was forced to work with the opposition to get anything done, he simply refused to put in the hard, slogging work necessary to succeed.
To get his historic tax bill passed, Reagan made more than 350 calls to members of Congress, reaching out across the aisle in a personal effort to bend Congress to his will. More than 70 Democrats eventually voted for the bill – an achievement that astonished Capitol Hill observers at the time.
Barack Obama couldn’t be bothered. He would not stoop to trying to convince anyone that he was right. “I won” was his famous response to people who criticized his proposals. With that kind of attitude, is it any surprise he was a spectacular failure?
Long time Capitol Hill aides – some going back to the early 1980’s – tell me that this White House had the worst congressional liaison shop in their experience. There was very little outreach to Republicans from the White House. They were arrogant and treated most congressmen from both parties as lesser beings.
They took their cue from the president.
It is telling that his two signature pieces of legislation – Obamacare and Dodd Frank – will undergo massive changes in the next few months largely because he refused to reach out and get input from Republicans. And when he did, he dismissed it as “nothing new.”
A sorry record of non-achievement from a president who was too lazy to put in the hard work necessary to succeed with Congress.