Fact-checking Barbour on Dem majorities

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. The Democrats are the ones standing.

Updated October 3

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour lampooned President Barack Obama and Democrats who blame the policies of the previous Bush administration for current economic problems, and chastised them for suggesting they were not in control of the levers of power to turn the economy around.

On "Face the Nation" Sunday, Barbour responded to remarks by fellow guest, Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-Md., who said that voters in 2012 will side with Democrats when deciding between two economic plans: "One that was the failed plan proven to have failed under George Bush, which brought us not only record deficits but worse, record job losses in our country; then you will have the plan that has been advanced by the president, once again renewed with his drive for the American Jobs Act, that will create jobs in our country.

"Opposition from the 'do-nothing Tea Party Congress' makes it very clear that they do not have an alternative except to prevent the president's plan from fully working," O'Malley said. He suggested that if Republicans would "put a couple of oars in the water" and help pass measures with bipartisan support, "we could actually move it forward."

Barbour took issue with O'Malley's "amnesia about the fact that Obama had the biggest Democratic majorities in Congress since Lyndon Johnson. They passed everything he wanted, including ramming health care, 'Obamacare,' down the country's throat. And now they complain, 'Well, gee, we didn't get everything we wanted, those mean Republicans!'"

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 he brought with him an influx of Democratic House Members - 43 - which increased the Democratic majority to 78.

But this was far from the largest majority by Democrats in the House, even since 1965 when Lyndon Johnson was president, when Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the House 295-140, a difference of 155.

In the wake of Watergate, Democrats increased their majority to 147 (1975-77) and 149 (1977-79). That majority dropped to just 50 in 1981 when Ronald Reagan entered the White House, but rebounded to 103 in 1983.

It dropped again, but rose to 100 (267 Democrats, 167 Republicans) in 1991 during President George H.W. Bush's term.

Republicans gained a majority in the House during President Clinton's first term, and increased their majority to a high of 29 under President George W. Bush in 2005, but in 2007 the House flipped to Democrats, and Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House with a majority of 35.

All these numbers pale in comparison to the 75th Congress of 1937-39, when Democrats increased their majority over Republicans 333-89 - a difference of 244.

It's a similar story in the Senate, where Democrats outnumbered Republicans 68-32 in 1965, a difference of 36.

But even the advantage Democrats had in the Senate for a time in 2009-2010 with 60 votes (including Democratic-leaning Independents) wasn't as large as the majority they had under President Ford, when Dems outnumbered the GOP by 24.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.