Sources of Presidential-Congressional Conflict
1) the different constituencies of Congress and the
the inability of anyone to speak for all Congress (or virtually even for their own party
in Congress) while President speaks for "the nation"
2) the nature of elections for Congress vs. elections for
A) Congresspersons as electoral entrepreneurs frequently disregard their
political party. The dominance of nonparty sources of funding and the dominant
role of constituent service lead to a lack of party loyalty and discipline.
B) the lack of presidential "coattail" effects in most elections
resulting in diminished (or non-existent) sense of political debt owed to the
3) "the growth of divided government"
Critics argue that divided government renders unworkable an already cumbersome, slow and
inefficient political system. Some even argue that federal deficit can be traced to the
1980s divided government where each side "played chicken" hoping to see the
other side back down! They also argue that divided government made electoral
accountability difficult since voters could (and did) hold both sides responsible for
Defenders say divided government is not that bad. It tends to make government
4) the inherent organizational weakness of Congress
committee and subcommittee systems, weak party discipline, weak leaders,
bicameralism, congressional fragmentation
5) different historical
Presidents have at most 8 years in office while members
of Congress can serve indefinitely and generally have a longer time in
office than does the President
6) distributive tendencies of Congress v.
redistributive tendencies of President
Congress tends to support policies that distribute benefits
to their constituents while Presidents tend to focus on policies that
redistribute benefits throughout the nation
7) institutional jealousies and
each institution tenaciously guards its constitutional and