Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Predicting Legislative Output in the First One-Hundred Days, 1897-1995

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Predicting Legislative Output in the First One-Hundred Days, 1897-1995

Article excerpt

This study applies OLS and Poisson regression analysis to predicting the legislative output of Congress during the first Hundred Days of 1897 to 1995. The celebrated One Hundred Days of 1933 has not encouraged researchers to try to identify the structural, political, and incumbency variables that matter systematically across a range of Congresses. Here the 25 presidential Hundred Days are included along with 25 mid-term "hundred days" for comparative purposes. Four conclusions are reached. First, (1) adverse economic conditions and (2) greater electoral support for congressional candidates of the President's party are generally associated with higher levels of 100-days enactments. Second, there is a marked drop-off in 100-days enactments beginning with the 81st Congress, which we speculate may be attributed to the growth of subcommittees that added another layer to the legislative process. Third, Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt arguably exhibited some independent effects on Hundred Days enactments, whereas two other "skilled" legislative leaders-Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan-did not. Finally, the 1933 Hundred Days were exceptional but not unique because their productivity was linked to the confluence of systemic political variables and crisis conditions and, moreover, because the most important 1933 Hundred Days laws were Depression-specific enactments and not general purpose legislation.

Since the first term of Franklin D. Roosevelt, when the 73rd Congress responded positively to a flood of legislative requests by President Roosevelt to cope with the economic calamity of the Great Depression, much academic and popular attention has been directed to the initial period of presidential administrations. The standard for comparison was established by the historians and political biographers who chronicled the first Hundred Days of Franklin D. Roosevelt and bestowed the highest accolades upon his ability to rally the nation behind legislative reform. Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1958: 20) recounts that "[iln the three months after Roosevelt's inauguration, Congress and the country were subjected to a presidential barrage of ideas and programs unlike anything known to American history." In his summary of events, Schlesinger (1958: 21) observes that "in this period Franklin Roosevelt sent fifteen messages to Congress, guided fifteen major laws to enactment, delivered ten speeches, held press conferences and cabinet meetings twice a week, conducted talks with foreign heads of state, sponsored an international conference, made all the major decisions in domestic and foreign policy, and never displayed fright or panic and rarely even bad temper. His mastery astonished many who thought they had long since taken his measure."

Presidential scholars are acutely aware of Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous First Hundred Days legislative achievements. Political capital for any incumbent is greatest following his electoral victory because public opinion rallies behind presidential leadership during the "honeymoon" period, after which long-term "decay" in popular support begins (Brace and Hinckley 1993: 32; Mueller 1970; Tatalovich and Gitelson 1990). Since the Hundred Days coincides with this period of inflated public expectations, many observers would agree with Paul Light (1983: 45) that legislation "presented in January-March.. will be considered under the most favorable conditions." In recent decades, in fact, the popular press has used the Hundred Days as a benchmark for evaluating the initial success of presidential administrations in formulating and advancing their legislative agendas. One reason President Carter fared so badly among journalists was because they made unfavorable comparisons between Carter's and Roosevelt's 100-days (Rozell 1989: 40). Yet Presidents also raise public expectations, as when President Clinton pledged to have "the most productive 100-day period in modern history" (Gergen 1993). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.