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Presentation on theme: "MORE ON COMMITTEES AND PARTIES"— Presentation transcript:


2 Three Theories of Committees (and their implications)
1.) Informational *implies that committees are microcosms 2.) Distributive *implies that committees are “preference outliers” 3.) Partisan *implies that committees may be stacked (bipolar outliers?) Dominant view: committees have “multiple principals”---may depend on committee, or even issue

3 Overall Committee Structure and Ratios
Periodic reorganizations – most important was Legislative Reorganization Act of parallel H&S committee structures ---parallel exec. agency structures More recent reorganizations usually triggered by new issues/exec reorganizations (1970s, 2000s)

4 Deciding Committee Sizes and Ratios
Majority party “organizes the chamber”—has more power in House The leaders’ dilemma The musical chairs problem when majority shifts Proportionate and disproportionate majorities Why be nice to the minority party?

5 The Committee Assignment Process
Once ratios are determined, each party, in each chamber, has a leadership-dominated “steering committee” that makes assignments for that chamber/party General rules of the game ---House: no more than 2 assignments, certain cmttees are “exclusive,” some are ‘freebies” ---Senate: the Johnson rule, the “big 12” rule Freshman and transfer requests: what motivates members to seek certain committees? Fenno’s three goals: re-election (constituency), policy, and chamber influence Why would anyone want to be on Judiciary or Foreign Affairs?

6 The Assignment Process Cont’d
Refining Fenno’s theory 1.) Looking at actual requests rather than assignments 2.) Each member may have multiple goals 3.) Same committee can appeal to different members for different reasons 4.) As issues and committee structures evolve, committees’ dominant goals may evolve too

7 Assignment Process Continued
Frisch and Kelly, Committee Assignment Politics in the U.S. House (based on actual member requests from ) The “preference outlier” thesis is based on two testable assumptions 1.) Members seek committees mainly for constituency reasons 2.) Members get the committee assignments they want (‘self-selection’)

8 Assignment Process in Committees
Here’s what the data say --for some cmtees, constituency characteristics are strongly correlated with committee requests --members’ (especially freshmen) probability of getting what they want averages about 50% Problem: are members “strategic” or “sincere” in their requests?

9 Assignment Process Factors associated with successful freshman requests 1.) whether predecessor was on cmtee 2.) former service as staffer 3.) family member was or is in Congress 4.) number of other member requests 5.) number of vacancies Partisan finding: electorally safe Democrats, but marginal Republicans, tended to get what they wanted

10 Assignment Process Factors associated with transfer request success 1.) Democrats: party loyalty and moderation 2.) Republicans: just party loyalty 3.) Value of seat being given up New wrinkle: under Hastert, fundraising for the party became a factor in committee assignment process

11 Are Committees Slowly Dying?
More frequent bypassing of committees---legislation drafted by floor leaders, taken directly to the floor Causes of bypassing 1.) Greater partisan polarization 2.) Committee deliberations no longer secret/closed 3.) Committee expertise less respected 4.) Budgetary concerns cross committee jurisdictions 5.) New issues more complex 6.) Time constraints (e.g. bailouts)

12 The “Where’s the Party?” Debate in Political Science
--Seems like a ridiculous question, but – Would a Congress without party organizations or party leaders, produce policies, and/or member behaviors, any different from the actual Congress? Perhaps a lot of what appears to be “partisanship” is really “preferenceship” based on members’ , and their states’/districts’, ideology: traditional measures of partisanship confuse the two concepts

13 “Where’s the party”continued
Three schools of thought 1.) radical revisionist view: a.) little or no evidence that members have been, or can be, persuaded to vote against personal or district interests in favor of the party b.) policies passed by Congress reflect the views of the median member, not the median majority party member

14 Where’s the party? Cont’d
2.) Mainstream view: Conditional Party Government (CPG) Theory-- a.) when parties are internally homogenous and externally heterogeneous ideologically, members trust their party leaders with additional powers, which can be used to FORCE members to vote the party line (appointment powers, fundraising powersagenda-setting powers, etc.)---this is what’s happened since the 1980s, and what happened in the 1880s-1890s b.) when parties are internally homogeneous and externally homogenous, members refuse to delegate powers to party leaders, creating even more independence, maverickness, and diversity within parties---this is what happened during the ‘Textbook’ period (1920s-1970s)

15 Where’s the party? 3.) Cartel theory: Even when parties are ideologically diverse, they still want to win! So they still ---punish acts of party disloyalty ---try to avoid voting on issues that would split or embarrass the party, or on which party leaders (or president) would lose ---maybe not shift policy to their party median, but definitely prevent it from shifting to the other party’s median

16 Which view is correct? Each theory is partly correct, because it is looking at only part of the picture a.) the radical revisionist theory is correct that direct, positive party influence is hard to find evidence of b.) the cartel theory is correct that indirect, negative influence can work even when parties appear to be fragmented and weak

17 Interesting related projects
1.) What happens to members (Arlen Specter) who switch parties? Do they vote more like their “new” party leaders? 2.) Truly nonpartisan legislatures: Nebraska, Confederate Congress



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