The President in Congress

The president “acts not as the executive but as the third branch of the legislature.”

Woodrow Wilson (1885)

Scope of project

The Constitution's separation of powers places presidents outside of Congress. They may try to influence Congress with public relations campaigns, veto threats, and appeals to individual legislators containing goods and services for their constituents. Yet even as the Constitution separates presidents from Congress, biennial party competition pulls them in. Presidents’ success in winning passage of their legislative program and deterring the opposition party’s pursuit of its legislative objectives will inform the presidential party’s brand reputation in the next election. Neither presidents nor legislators can ignore each other if they wish to win the next election.

This project explores the impact of the president on legislators' voting and position taking, on their communications with constituents, on their legislative strategies, and ultimately, on the substance of legislation. Past research into presidents' influence with Congress has been hampered by a dearth of systematic data on presidents' legislative proposals and positions on pending legislation. The project’s team members have for nearly a decade collected and coded every presidents' Statement of Administration Policy (SAPs) and legislative initiative contained in OMB's logs of legislative initiatives. The complete text files of these documents are posted here. As the research is published, we will add the data sets and work files created from these text files. NSF (SES-1 655792) has generously supported this research. Contact Sam Kernell ( with any questions or suggestions for this website.