Gridlock (politics)

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For other uses of "Gridlock", see Gridlock (disambiguation).

In politics, gridlock or deadlock or political stalemate refers to a situation when there is difficulty of passing laws in a legislature because the votes for and against a proposed law are evenly divided, or in which two legislative houses, or the executive branch and the legislature are controlled by different political parties, or otherwise cannot agree.

United States[edit]

In United States politics, gridlock frequently refers to occasions when the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate are controlled by different parties, or by a different party than the party of the President. Gridlock may also occur within the Senate, when no party has a filibuster-proof majority.

Law professors such as Sanford Levinson and Adrian Vermeule, as well as political commentators such as Matthew Yglesias, have criticized the U.S. Constitution and Senate voting rules for enabling situations of legislative gridlock. "Political Gridlock It's Time for a Reboot" by author Ned Witting identifies many of the causes of gridlock in the United States and outlines ways to get government working again.

Westminster systems[edit]

In parliamentary systems based on the Westminster system, parliamentary deadlocks may arise when an election results in neither or none of the major political parties having the numbers in the lower house (the house where the government is formed) to form a government, or when the votes in a lower house of parliament are so close that a government cannot be sure of getting its legislation passed through the house, or when another party (usually referred to as the opposition party) controls a majority of votes in the upper house.

A recent innovation has been to remove the power of the upper house to block supply, as well as some other bills.

The Australian Constitution provides a mechanism for breaking a deadlock between the two houses of Parliament, by means of a double dissolution and, if the deadlock is still not resolved, by a joint sitting of both houses of parliament.[1]


  1. ^ Section 57 of the Australian Constitution.