No Democrat-Controlled Congress Has Balanced Federal Budget in 40 Years; No Republican President Has Balanced Federal Budget in 50 Years

March 15, 2010 - 12:35 PM
No Congress in which the Democrats controlled both the House and Senate has balanced the federal budget since fiscal 1969--more than 40 years ago.
Nancy Pelosi health care

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) - Many leading Democrats in Washington these days like to point to the fact that the federal budget was balanced for part of the time that President Bill Clinton was in office. What they do not mention is that those balanced budgets occurred only when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.
 
In fact, according to the historical data published by the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama White House, no Congress in which the Democrats controlled both the House and Senate has balanced the federal budget since fiscal 1969--more than 40 years ago.
 
The federal appropriations made for that fiscal year—which began on July 1, 1968 and ended on June 30, 1969--were approved by a Democrat-controlled Congress elected in 1966. They were signed by lame-duck Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, who had decided not to run for reelection in 1968. (Until 1977, the federal fiscal year began on July 1 and ended on June 30. Since 1977, it has begun on Oct. 1 and ended on Sept. 30. Federal fiscal years are numbered by the calendar year in which they end.)
 
President Eisenhower in 1960 was the last Republican president to preside over a balanced budget. A Democrat-controlled Congress elected in 1958 approved the appropriations for that fiscal year in 1959.
 
More recently, the federal budget was balanced in fiscal years 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. A Republican-controlled Congress approved the appropriations for each one of those years and Democratic President Bill Clinton signed them. In fiscal years 1994 and 1995, when President Clinton governed with a Democrat-controlled Congress, the federal government ran deficits of $203.2 billion and $163.9 billion respectively.
 
The Republican majority Congress elected in November 1994 presided over two fiscal years with declining deficits—fiscal 1996 and 1997—before it initially balanced the budget in fiscal 1998.  In fiscal 1996 and 1997, the deficits were $107.4 billion and $21.9 billion respectively.
 
In the 2000 election, Republicans retained control of the House but the Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. In May 2001, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched parties from Republican to Independent and began caucusing with the Democrats, giving the Democrats the effective majority and making then-Sen. Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.) the majority leader.
 
That split Congress was responsible for the appropriations for fiscal 2002, which put the federal government back into a deficit. After Republicans regained control of the Senate in the November 2002 elections (thus taking control of the budget process for fiscal 2004 which would begin on Oct. 1, 2003), the all-Republican Congress continued running deficits for four fiscal years (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007). During that time, with President George W. Bush in the White House, the Republicans controlled both the legislative and executive branches but failed to balance the budget.
 
In the November 2006 elections, Democrats won back the majority in both the House and Senate, and in the three fiscal years that have started since then (2008, 2009, 2010), they have run record deficits of  $458.6 billion, $1.41 trillion and $1.55 trillion.

The estimated deficit for this fiscal year (2010) of $1.55 trillion is more than three times as large as the $458.6 billion deficit that President George W. Bush presided over with a Democratic Congress in fiscal 2008. In fiscal 2010, of course, Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress as well as the White House.
 
Since 1960, the federal budget has been balanced in only 6 fiscal years. For two of those fiscal years—1960 and 1969—Democrats controlled Congress. For four—1998, 1999, 2000, 2001—Republicans controlled Congress.WHO BALANCED THE BUDGET?
 
The chart below lists the fiscal years since 1960, the president who was in office when that fiscal year began, the political party that controlled Congress when that fiscal year began, whether the federal budget was balanced in that fiscal year, and the amount of the federal surplus or deficit in that fiscal year. The figures for federal deficits and surpluses come from the “Historical Tables—Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal 2011,” published by the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama White House.  
 
                   Control of Congress   Budget Balanced?      Deficit/Surplus
 
President Dwight Eisnehower (Left office Jan. 20, 1961)
1960                Democrat                    YES                   $301 million   
1961                Democrat                    No                      --$3.3 billion
 
President John F. Kennedy (Assassinated Nov. 22, 1963)
1962                Democrat                    No                      --$7.1 billion
1963                Democrat                    No                      --$4.8 billion
1964                Democrat                    No                      --$5.9 billion
 
President Lyndon B. Johnson (Left office Jan. 20, 1969)
1965                Democrat                    No                       --$1.4 billion
1966                Democrat                    No                       --$3.7 billion   
1967                Democrat                    No                       --$8.6 billion
1968                Democrat                    No                       --$25.2 billion
1969                Democrat                   YES                        $3.2 billion
 
President Richard M. Nixon (Resigned Aug. 9, 1974)
1970                Democrat                    No                       --$2.8 billion
1971                Democrat                    No                       --$23.0 billion
1972                Democrat                    No                       --$23.4 billion
1973                Democrat                    No                       --$14.9 billion
1974                Democrat                    No                       --$6.1 billion
1975                Democrat                    No                       --$53.2 billion
 
President Gerald Ford (Left office Jan. 20, 1977)
1976                Democrat                    No                        --$73.7 billion
1977                Democrat                    No                        --$53.7 billion 
 
President Jimmy Carter (Left office Jan. 20, 1981)
1978                Democrat                    No                        --$59.1 billion
1979                Democrat                    No                        --$40.7 billion
1980                Democrat                    No                        --$73.8 billion
1981                Democrat                    No                        --$78.9 billion
             

President Ronald W. Reagan (Left office Jan. 20, 1989)
1982                Split                             No                       --$127.9 billion
1983                Split                             No                       --$207.8 billion
1984                Split                             No                       --$185.3 billion
1985                Split                             No                       --$212.3 billion
1986                Split                             No                       --$221.2 billion
1987                Split                             No                       --$149.7 billion
1988                Democrat                    No                      --$155.1 billion
1989                Democrat                    No                      --$152.6 billion           
 
President George H.W. Bush (Left office Jan. 20, 1993)
1990                Democrat                   No                         --$221.0 billion
1991                Democrat                   No                         --$269.2 billion
1992                Democrat                   No                         --$290.3 billion
1993                Democrat                   No                         --$255.0 billion
 
President William J. Clinton (Left office Jan. 20, 2001)
1994                Democrat                   No                          --$203.2 billion
1995                Democrat                   No                          --$163.9 billion
1996                Republican                No                          --$107.4 billion
1997                Republican                No                         --$21.9 billion
1998                Republican                YES                         $69.2 billion                        
1999                Republican                YES                         $125.6 billion          
2000                Republican                YES                          $236.2 billion
2001                Republican                YES                          $128.2 billion

 
President George W. Bush (Left office Jan. 20, 2009)
2002                Split                             No                          --$157.8 billion
2003                Split                             No                          --$377.6 billion
2004                Republican                 No                         --$412.7 billion
2005                Republican                 No                         --$318.3 billion
2006                Republican                 No                         --$248.2 billion
2007                Democrat                    No                         --$160.7 billion
2008                Democrat                    No                         --$458.6 billion
2009                Democrat                    No                          --$1.41 trillion
 
President Barack Obama
2010                Democrat                    No                         --$1.55 trillion