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Presidential-Congressional relations during the Kennedy administration

Hart, John (1977) Presidential-Congressional relations during the Kennedy administration. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94405) (KAR id:94405)

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This study examines the relationship between President John P. Kennedy and the United States Congress focusing on the institutional arrangements through which the President conducted that relationship and the strategic decisions he made regarding his overall approach to Congress. It does so within the context of the literature of political science which tradition­ally stresses the conflict between the two branches, but this analysis argues that attention ought to be given to the co-operative features of Presidential-Congressional relations. Indeed, it notes that some of the institutional developments under Kennedy closely resemble the reform proposals advocated by many political scientists in this area. The concept of Congressional liaison is used to identify the various components of Kennedy's systematic approach to Congress. This study pays particular attention to the establishment and operation of the White House Office of Congressional Relations; the legislative leadership meetings; the links between the White House and the rank-and-file Congressmen, and the workings of the White House staff system. The historical context is noted in each case. The study then explores the legislative strategy developed by President Kennedy through an analysis of six specific policy areas to which the President had made legislative committments. It traces the outcome of these proposals in Congress in order to identify the nature of Congressional opposition to the New Frontier legislative programme. It notes that, crucial to every item, was the position of the southern Democrats and their potential voting alliance with the Republicans to form a conservative coalition to oppose the Kennedy proposals. Kennedy's legislative strategy was directed towards reducing the potential strength of this block. The final chapter argues that judgements about Presidential legislative leadership ought to take into account the efforts made by a President to enhance his chances of success on Capitol Hill and the nature of the opposition he has to encounter. Particular attention is given to the position of the southern Democrats during the Kennedy years. It is suggested that this is a more fruitful approach to the study of Presidential-Congressional relations than what has been identified as 'the balance-sheet' mode of analysis which concentrates primarily on overall wins and losses. It is further argued that, when viewed in this context, conventional wisdom about President Kennedy's performance as a legislative leader is in need of some adjustment. The outcome of his most significant proposals do not justify marking his leadership as a failure and the developments in Presidential-Congressional relations during his administrations are held to be innovatory.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94405
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2022 15:32 UTC
Last Modified: 30 Aug 2022 15:33 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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