Judging by his recent history, it doesn’t really matter what President Obama says in Tuesday’s State of the Union address — Congress is going to ignore him anyway.
Mr. Obama has the second-worst record of getting his State of the Union policy requests enacted into law of any president in the last five decades, according to an analysis by two scholars that puts him only above the unelected two-year presidency of Gerald Ford.
From 2009 through 2014, Mr. Obama issued 209 different calls for action from Congress in his speeches, but only saw lawmakers follow through on 64 of them — good for just 30 percent. That’s only slightly better than Mr. Ford’s 28 percent success rate, and is well below the likes of President Clinton, the previous Democratic president, who won 44 percent of his policies even though he faced a Congress more Republican than Mr. Obama has.
Indeed, Mr. Obama set a single-year record for futility in 2013, just after his re-election, getting Congress to pass just two of the 41 policies he asked them to consider. That’s the worst in the last 50 years, according to the data from Professors Donna R. Hoffman and Alison D. Howard, two political scientists who have tracked State of the Unions going back to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 speech. President Reagan had a year that was nearly as bad, in 1987, when he only got one of his 19 proposals passed, for a fractionally better rate than Mr. Obama’s 2013.
In 1997, the year after his re-election, Mr. Clinton got Congress to pass 33 of his 57 proposals.
The two scholars cautioned that they don’t believe presidents’ records can be compared cumulatively, but must be taken year-by-year because proposals mentioned one year could be repeated again in a future year, which could result in double-counting.
They said they preferred using a median value of scores across a president’s term in office. By that measure, Mr. Obama was also second-worst, with Ford again coming in last.
According to the two scholars, Mr. Obama’s best year came in 2010, when he had huge Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, made 45 proposals, and won full or partial passage of 25 of them.
His rate began to steadily decline to 2013’s disastrous year of just two successful proposals, before rebounding last year, when Congress — still divided between Democrats controlling the Senate and the GOP controlling the House — passed five of his 29 proposals.