Divided government sometimes overperforms expectations.

In a new New York Times opinion piece, James Curry and Frances Lee make the case that a Senate majority may not be necessary for progressive to get “ambitious things – climate change legislation, health care and policing reforms” done in the 117th Congress under a Biden administration.

They write:

“We looked at the success of majority parties in achieving their stated policy goals, from 1985 through 2018, by tracking more than 250 proposals. For each, we marked whether Congress enacted a law that achieved most of what the party wanted, some of what it wanted or none of what it wanted as it failed to pass any new policy. The parties failed outright roughly half the time; there was no real difference between Democrats and Republicans and no long-term trends in success or failure over time. When one party had unified control, it made only a modest difference: In a unified government, congressional majority parties failed on 43 percent of their agenda priorities; in divided government, the number was 49 percent.

Overwhelming partisan victories are incredibly rare. Over the past 30 years, we identified only a dozen instances when a majority party won the kind of victory progressive Democrats envision for their more ambitious proposals: that is, by achieving a policy goal over the other party’s sustained resistance. These victories do include some major achievements like the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the 2010 Affordable Care Act.”

Read their full piece in the New York Times.

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Topics: Legislative Procedure