Wednesday 12 January 2011

President Ford

My recent reading has concentrated on the House of Representatives in period 1972 to 1977. Obviously the Watergate scandal and the impeachment process has figured large - but there is an interesting tale to tell during the 94th Congress. In the aftermath of Watergate the Democrats scored amazing sucesses in the November 1974 elections. They held 289 of the 435 seats in the House - supposedly a veto-proof majority - yet  President Ford was able to thwart many of their plans.

The President's strategy was to veto legislation that the Democrats had been able, with their large majorities in both the House and Senate, to pass through Congress. It was on overriding the vetoes that the Democrats were caught out.

In the first session of the 94th Congress (1975) there were 17 vetoes - 4 were overridden : 6 were sustained by the House; 1 by the Senate: and there was no attempt to override 6.

In the second session (1976) there were 20 vetoes (the last five were 'pocket vetoed' - again only 4 were overidden : 1 was sustained by the House : 5 were sustained by the Senate and no attempt was made to override 5.

The problem for the Democrats was that the caucus was divided - and Ford exploited the divisions. Sometimes it was southern conservatives who refused to help override Ford's veto - sometimes it was Democrats from the Eastern cities.