This article presents a unique dataset of 72 cases from across American history in which Congress asserts itself in its relationship with the executive. Patterns suggest that assertiveness occurs in clusters pulled together by a unifying theme, such as Congress’ response to the Civil War and Cold War. Much of this is in direct response to executive antagonism and perceived abuse of power. The House tends to be the more assertive body in the early part of American history, the Senate more so today. Quantitative analyses show divided party control to best explain House assertiveness. By contrast, the Senate is generally assertive when member policy preferences are homogeneous and turnover is low. It also frequently pushes back against popular presidents. Both bodies assert themselves when their legislative workload is high.
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