The Reagan express was derailed during the 1985 session of Congress, running into the resistance of an increasingly restive and independent legislative branch. The session was dominated by inconclusive trench warfare over spending, the federal debt and taxes. And neither side emerged this weekend with the ability to claim glowing achievement.
It was a decidedly political session of Congress for a non-election year. President Reagan came in on the euphoria of a massive personal election victory. But, handicapped among other things by White House personnel shuffling, he failed to translate that victory into another surge forward for his Reagan Revolution.
There were the expected philosophical and ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans. But 1985 also was a year in which the President had sharp breaks with his own party in Congress--with Senate Republicans on the budget, and with the GOP in the House over tax reform. These clashes added to the President's difficulties in dealing with Congress.
White House truculence also frustrated the ability of a bright new Senate leadership team under Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) to shape the budget-deficit debate, which Dole considered the one key issue of the session. By late fall the deficit initiative had been seized by two junior senators, Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) and Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.), the authors of a gimmicky deficit-reduction plan signed into law by the President on Dec. 12.