Conservatives in an Age of Change: The Nixon and Ford Administrations

By James Reichley | Go to book overview

15
Ford and the Ninety-fourth Congress: The Veto Strategy

THE CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS held in November 1974, three months after Nixon's resignation, produced, as expected, large Democratic gains. The Democrats won 46 additional seats in the House of Representatives, and, ultimately, added 4 in the Senate. (The contest for succession to the New Hampshire Senate seat from which Norris Cotton was retiring was not finally decided until September 15, 1975, when a rerun of a disputed election gave victory to the Democratic candidate, John Durkin.) When the Ninety-fourth Congress convened in January 1975, the Democrats had majorities of 23 in the Senate and 147 in the House--the largest Republican deficit in the latter since the Congress elected in 1936, during the heyday of the New Deal. In the House the Democrats, if all voted together, held one vote more than the two-thirds majority needed to pass bills over the president's veto. In the Senate the partisan advantage, though less overwhelming, was more than enough to dominate ordinary legislative business.

The Congress that confronted Ford in 1975, moreover, was determined to reclaim some of the authority that the legislative branch had been losing rather steadily to the executive since Franklin Roosevelt's first term. Nixon had given congressional leaders a decided scare at the beginning of 1973. By unilaterally refusing to spend funds appropriated for programs that he aimed to terminate or curtail (impoundment), by setting out to reorganize the executive branch along lines that Congress had refused to approve, and by excluding Con-

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