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Joy Reid is the host of MSNBC’s ‘The Reid Report’ airing weekdays at 2 p.m. Her commentary below is an opinion piece.

If you want a better president, get a better congress.

It’s one of my favorite sayings, and not just because I came up with it, but also because it happens to be true.

And it’s as relevant as ever now, as we enter what you might call the “the down”years of the Obama presidency. Sure,the economy has recovered from the Great Recession George W. Bush left on his way out the door … we’re not in any wars, and Wall Street is doing really well(lucky them) … but the overall vibe in the country is profoundly negative. And many people blame the president, for the fact that real wages are stagnant and the federal minimum wage is stuck; and black unemployment is still double overall unemployement and we’ve done nothing to address persistent problems like gun violence.

If you read some of the big thinkers who spend time writing about politics today, the problem is that the president isn’t leading. He needs to stand up and lead, and somehow a recalcitrant congresswill follow.

That’s the same congress, by the way, that recently voted to sue the president for “leading” on healthcare reform, while demanding that he use the same executive action they’re suing him over, to solve the unaccompanied minor crisis on the border.

So here’s the thing.

As I’m sure you know, congress, according to the Constitution, is the first branch of government. It’s powers are spelled out in Article I, and actually exceed those of the president, who comes up in Article II. And the makeup of congress has a powerful impact on the kind of presidency we experience.

If the Court makes a ruling congress doesn’t like, they can pass a law overiding it.

If Congress passes a law the president doesn’t like, he can veto it, but a 2/3 majority of them can overrule him.

The president can nominate judges,including to the Supreme Court, but only the Senate can put them on the bench.

Congress’ powers are so broad, they have the ability to literally bring government itself to a grinding halt, which the current congress has actually done.

The makeup of congress matters.

Back in the 1930s, FDR had 59 Democratic Senators and just 36 Republicans in the Senate when hisNew Deal was enacted. From 1937 to 1939, he had a Senate with 75 Democrats in it, and just 17 Republicans. And most of those Democrats were on President Roosevelt’s side.

President John F. Kennedy couldn’t get a civil rights bill through, despite having 64 Democrats in the Senate — four more than are needed to override a veto — because so many of those Democrats were southern segregationists.

By the time Lyndon Johnson took over as president, he needed Republican votes to get the Civil Rights Act through;but he had 68 Democrats in place by the time the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965.

Bill Clinton’s agenda changeddramatically after the 1994 midterms and the Republican takeover of the House and Senate. And that new agenda, including welfare reform, was a compromise in Republicans’ favor. And they still tried to impeach him.

Which brings us to President Obama.

Who when he took the oath of office, was looking at a Senate with just 55 Democrats and 2 Independents in it; 3 short of what’s needed to end a fillibuster, assuming all the Democrats stuck with him, since Republicans had made a decision on inauguration day to get to 41 Senate votes, and filibuster everything.

With the exception of the stimulus, which passed in February 2009 with three Republican Senators voting for it, nearly every other major piece of legislation attributed to President Obaam’s legacy, from the Lilly ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to the Fair Sentencing Act that reduced drug sentence disparities, to the Affordable Care Act, passed in the brief, six-month window between July 2009 and Christmas Eve of that year, when Obamacare was voted through in the Senate, with LITTLE OR NO Republican votes.

After Democrats lost Obama’s Illinois Senate seat and Republican Scott Brown grabbed the late Teddy Kennedy’s Massachusetts seat, pushing Democrats under 60 votes in 2010, things went downhill fast. The Senate put up the most fillibusters in its 200-plus year history.

And once Republicans also took over the House, in the 2010 midterms, well, you know how it’s been since then. At this point, the hottest topic in Republican circles is impeachment. And the current congress has passed fewer laws than any congress in modern history.

Now that’s not to say there’s nothing the president can or should do. And this president in my opinion doesn’t utilize, nearly enough, the symbolic powers of his office. But it’s just a basic fact of American political life that the make up of congress matters. A lot. And double that when it comes to the politicians who impact your day to day life — your governor, mayor, your school board, and your elected judges. If you don’t pay attention to who they are? Well let’s just say good luck with that.

Something to think about as we head into the midterms.

– “Joy Reid is the host of MSNBC’s ‘The Reid Report’ airing weekdays at 2 p.m. For the latest news, follow the show on Twitter @TheReidReport.”

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43 thoughts on “JOY REID: If You Want A Better President, Get A Better Congress

  1. Joshua Dixon on said:

    Easily verified facts not mentioned in this article:
    1) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) has not allowed over 300 bills passed by the House of Representatives to be debated or voted on in the Senate since Jan. 2011.
    2) President Obama has announced his intention more than once to veto bills being debated in the House of Representatives before they’ve even been voted on, making further debate legally pointless.
    3) After two years of Democrats controlling the presidency and both sides of Congress, the American people voted a near-record number of Republicans to all levels of government in the 2010 midterm elections, even going so far as to elect a Republican who specifically promised to vote against the Affordable Care Act to “Teddy Kennedy’s seat” in blue-state Massachusetts.

  2. You’d have a better Congress if you had a better president. Ronald Reagan showed us this in the ’80s by reaching across the aisle in an attempt to find common ground. He had to work with a Democratic congress the whole time he was President; and they were as hostile toward him as the current Congress is toward Obama.

    Clinton did the same thing in the 90’s. After his first two years in which he was handed a “shelacing” in the mid-term elections, he was able to work with a Republican Congress to pass significant legislation.

    The current Congress (House of Reps, really) has been hostile to Obama because the Democrats (both the White House as well as the Dems in the Senate) have been hostile toward Republicans. Republicans were locked out of the legislative process during Obama’s first two years, with all kinds of legislation passed. During the ACA debacle, Republicans were literally locked out of meetings in which the law was being crafted; and when it came up for a vote, nobody was given a chance to even read the law. (“You have to pass the law to find out what’s in the law.” – Nancy Pelosi).

    Now, Democrats complain about a do-nothing congress. What they are really complaining about is a situation in which the Republicans won’t pass the measures Obama and the democrats want passed. The House has passed a number of bills that never see the Senate floor because Harry Reid won’t allow it.

    Want to pass laws? Find some common ground and work with the other side. Obama is the leader. He won’t lead. Even democrats are now unhappy about the fact that Obama treats Congress like a pariah.

    • What planet do you live on? “Make sure he’s going to be a one-term president” — Repub Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. This is what the GOTP have been planning since Obama’s first inauguration date in Jan. 2009.Pres. Obama has done more than enough to reach across the aisle to the lunacy known as the GOTP, so much so that he compromised on several important acts (took the single-payer option out of the ACA and broke his promise by offering to put Social Security cuts on the table to name a few) to make those loons happy, and you have the audacity to post that lie that he doesn’t reach across the aisles and compromise? Where the heII were you when Repub. Ted Cruz and his road dogs agreed to the government shutdown? Google some of the videos of some of the GOTP reps being happy after the shutdown began, starting with Michele Bachmann basically giddy over it. True story.

      As for Obama’s predecessors like Reagan and others, of course things went a little smoothly, dear. First off, they had a president who looked just like them and never asked numerous times to see a birth certificate, therefore leading to the second reason, the Tea Party. Hard-core right wing extremists have run scared and going off the deep end because minorities are becoming the majority, and they will not have that! Keeping your head in the sand with the TV on Faux News buried with you is not helping your narrow-minded behind. Open your freakin’ eyes and ears and pay close attention as to what’s really going on. Yes, Pres. Obama HAS done more than enough to reach across the aisles, and, yes, it IS the Repub-controlled Congress (the worst Congress and the least productive in the history of the U.S. Not opinion; all-out true documented FACT) who is working hard on taxpayers dollars (along with big bonus bucks via Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson) to do absolutely nothing!!

  3. This article headline is indicative of the insanity of the liberal mindset. It’s akin to saying “If you want a better father get better children.” The irony is, by using the quote and insisting on its truthfulness, the writer implicitly affirms this president is bad.

  4. James R on said:

    When we get an unbiased and truly independent press who do their jobs regardless of personal viewpoints, we will get a better political system because then and only then will the public be truly informed.

  5. Toni Wallace on said:

    Agreed, but we need a better Congress anyway. It seams that some Americans are not aware that the USA is ran by the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court and anyone that can make enough noise or buy someone. The “vote” has become a very powerful tool, and we need to get out and use it come 2014 and 2016!

  6. Here’s something that can be done to cut by millions black unemployment. Unemployment among Blacks will not be helped by legalizing and granting
    amnesty to 10 million illegal immigrants who now compete unfairly with them for
    jobs. In fact, unemployment among Blacks will be hurt by such a measure. (Read
    this article and pay particular attention to the first two paragraphs and know
    that that situation whereby illegal immigrants take jobs from Blacks is
    multiplied by thousands of instances
    So that one article proves that illegals steal jobs from Americans!

    And jobs are being stolen in many fields, including construction, hospitality,
    restaurants and food production, manufacturing and more!)
    And realize that there is no such thing as free pie. Jobs are limited
    and are not brought to the USA in
    backpacks in plane flights here or across the Rio Grande. Resources are
    limited. For every Spanish book or DVD in the public library, there is one less
    English book or DVD. For every English as a Second Language class or teacher in
    school, there’s one less advanced English or remedial English class in school.
    This will work to solve the immigration problem—and not on the backs of Blacks.
    And when it comes to crime, crime rates are not the issue.
    The question is do they add to crime. And the answer is yes–if
    they have any crime rate at all–and they do.
    So when it comes to employment and to crime, the questions
    are who are advantaged by illegal immigrants? And who is disadvantaged by
    illegal immigrants? And how much disadvantage should be paid to give the
    advantage? That is “Whose ox is gored?” Well, for the
    jobs and resources, it’s illegals that are advantaged and Americans–black and
    otherwise–that are disadvantaged. Some might think that the job loss is
    small–only a couple of million–but do YOU like the illegals so much that you
    would give them or one of them YOUR job? I don’t think so. So don’t give
    them the jobs of your fellow Americans who should come first since this is America.
    Amnesty (so called comprehensive immigration reform) puts the interest of
    illegals in tront of the interests of Americans .
    And the same applies for crime. They add to crime and
    you might think that the addition to crime is small. But wait, what if
    YOU or you family member or your relative is the victim of that additional
    crime? Would you want you or yours to be the victim of those rapes, murders,
    thefts, etc. I don’t think so. Again, since this is America,
    Americans should come first! Amnesty (so called comprehensive immigration
    reform) puts the interest of illegals in tront of the interests of Americans .
    This is immigration reform you
    can believe in. There is no need for an
    expensive border fence or to spend billions on more boots on the ground at the
    border. Illegals come here for
    jobs/work/money/a better life. That’s
    the magnet that attracts them. So turn
    off the magnet. Make it clear that they
    won’t get what they want if they come here illegally. How? This
    is comprehensive immigration reform: 1. Require E-Verify for all current and
    future employees and couple it with a swift appeals process for those who do
    not pass E-Verify. 2. Couple that with severe (at least $20,000 per illegal
    hired per day if hired without E-Verify permission and disallow (make not
    permissible under the Internal Revenue Code) any expense deduction for such
    hires. They will be unemployable by employers.
    With these measures, deportation is not needed and the illegals will go
    home and out of the US
    by plane, train, automobile and foot. Problem solved.
    To grant illegal immigrants
    amnesty and therefore allow them to keep the jobs that they have stolen –disproportionately
    from African Americans would be a stab in the back by Obama. Illegal immigrants
    do take jobs from Black Americans. Illegal immigrants separate their own
    families if they are deported. (Hey, they knew when they acted illegally to
    stay or enter the county that they could be deported at anytime and they may
    take their families with them if they are deported. And no one says that the
    government is ripping apart families when parents convicted of crimes go the
    jail. The separating of families is the natural consequence of criminal
    violations of the law in each case.)
    Obama’s plans for amnesty
    have contributed to the flood of illegals coming across the border and now he
    plans to send the good American people the bill for feeding, clothing, housing
    and schooling the illegals. And Obama
    wants to pay for their legal representation to boot! (If I go to court, I have to hire my own
    attorney.) Resources are limited. That’s $3.7 billion that could be used to
    feed, cloth, house and school America’s
    children. So Obama wants to give
    illegals your job and give their children your childrens’ jobs and send you the
    bill for it! How pathetic!

  7. Rene Austin on said:

    to all of the haters, all the ones who plotted to make him a one term president, all the ones who talk out of both sides of their mouths, ones who want to change voting rights, who won’t do anything for the middle class, who worship at the feet of limbaugh, palin , bachman, gomert, king, boehner, who disrespected our president from day one and by extension ” us”, as Dick Gregory once said, “I don’t need your ignorance to confirm my truth.”

      • Joe Valdez on said:

        Obviously You are One Of Them based on your stupid response. Think !!! giving amnesty to 14 million illegal Mexicans, and Central Americans who are willing to work for $4-$5 Bucks per Hr and no benefit taking jobs that used to pay African Americans $14-$20 Bucks per Hr plus benefits is this what Obama is all about? Are You brain dead????? What has Obama done for African Americans except for singing a few words from an Al Green Song? … To me It doesn’t mater If The Cat Is Black Or White As Long As It Catches Mice Do You Get It Moron???? Americans are suffering , we have a border for a reason , what would happen to you if you crossed into Mexico Illegally ?????? Jus ask the Marine who is in Jail , and he was crossing Legally. Get a Life You Idiot.

  8. The country does not need the votes of “braindead liberals” who vote for “an arrogant, incompetent, community organizer instead of someone who at least has some experience!

  9. Dave Ascoli on said:

    The challenge with leadership is that is requires a shared vision. The reason the Congress is “bad”(as it has been with other presidents) is that our elected officials no longer want a shared vision. Their vision reflects their Party, not The People. As such, the Parties fight each other because the two visions are so steeped in ideology, they can no longer compromise. In today’s politics the word ‘compromise’ has been replaced with “cave in”…the latter term reflecting weakness, not strength. Compromise used to be a good thing…still is…but only The People understand and can do that now…The political Parties will not tolerate politicians “caving in.” And, since politicians need the Party’s money…well, there you have it: gridlock. It is time we get rid of both Parties and start over. We need a Constitutional Amendment to remove political money from campaigns. Money for campaigning should come from taxpayer donations and be split equally. There should be a campaign channel that allows all candidates equal time. No other channel should broadcast campaign ads. There should be a requirement that compels all campaign ads to present a candidates strengths, providing examples and details. Moreover, campaign ads by a candidate should not include comments about other candidates. Comparative campaign ads (comparing all relevant candidates) should be delivered by an independent “ratings’ group that rate specific policy/practice for each candidate on each issue. Our government can work, but We The People need to stand up and say, ‘enough is enough.’ This author is parroting what her ideology demands…we need journalists to raise their standards and go back to protecting The People, rather than the politicians. Do not vote Democrat or Republican…vote, but vote ANYTHING but that!

  10. Written by a racist, for other racist for all those who sold their souls and morals to have a half white guy in the white house. How about starting at the top and blame Odummmmmer. You liberals and minorities always blamed Bush for everything and he had both houses democrat to contend with.

  11. how black can it get they cant see their dark side they only see what they want to see and that is that white people need to be wiped off the face of the earth they sure needed this new website they haven’t got enough raciest news channels is.that is how the war is one 100 to one in favor of this nightmare of a president without the lying news media Obama would need his old job back as a union organizer .he has failed the people of this country black and white …alike so how do you have the nerve to lie haven’t we had enough of that Joy Reid ……… related to harry i guess

  12. According to the theory you state in your article that if you want a better president get a better congress so in this case Bush had a bad democrat controlled congress that is responsible of the great recession

  13. ms have it backwards don’t you? the president needs to STOP his lying ass lies to the American public.his lies are a mile color has nothing to do with this on our part,just yours.

  14. Congress is doing just fine….stop the Leftist plans of Obama where and when ever possible. The only laws congress can pass now will be stopped by the senate and Obama. When congress and the senate become republican and laws reach Obama and his veto it will be clear that Obama rules AGAINST the people.

  15. Good comedy. It’s like saying, you want to be a better person, find better friends. Want to be a person of character, find someone to do it for you. Want to be a better leader, find better followers. Typical , always someone else to blame. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…I am the all powerful OZ! What a joke these fools are.

  16. Kevyn Thomas on said:

    Biased article the president has been doing what every he wants with little or no resistance from either party. He has been making his own laws through excutive orders yet he has done more for Lbgt and latinos Than the black community.

  17. Rene Austin on said:

    Amen, every black, hispanic, asian, gay/straight minister and community leader ought to read Joy Reid’s comments to their congregations and community groups. We can make a difference if we vote like our lives depend on it and it does. The disrespect shown to this president is disrespectful to us and we should show the hostile congress that they can be replaced.

    • it is your voting that has this country in the terrible condition it is in,the rest of us are voting for OUR lives.the man supports terrorism,gays,lesbians,satan,socialism,lies,etc.yea,you voted for this idiot.

    • Ah the old I have been disrespected and I am black conundrum. Seems to me he has had enough respect to not be impeached yet. He has literally turned this Country upside down and not in a good way. You say he deserves respect well respect is earned whether you are black, white, yellow, red. I would have rather had Colin Powell or Condi Rice in office. It does not matter what color you are it matters how you lead and he is not a leader he is a divider.

      • Impeached for what??!! What did he do that was technically illegal? You want to talk constitution, go ask Dubya about his many documented violations of it! Too late to ask Reagan about him being close to impeachment for his Iran-Contra affair selling arms to radical terrorists; what a perfect leader… much so, his trickle-down economics has finally come into effect and is working wonders for Americans…….

        If anything, Dubya’s and Cheney’s asses should have been impeached, from day one with the WMD lies. Those two clowns AND Condoleeza Rice should be behind bars now.

        And I’m sick of hearing the “he’s a divider” bull. When has this country EVER been united on anything?? WHEN?? All the history we’ve had with other countries wasn’t necessarily out of good will but out of something that always came with a price (e.g., oil, military arms). That’s the thing with bubbles – they can only float so far until the burst happens. You can stay in your little fantasy bubble for as long as you can ride in it, but I guarantee you that made-up dream world you’ve concocted for yourself will burst sooner than you think.

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