Because of the power-fearing drafters of the U.S. Constitution, the president’s tools for influencing Congress are quite limited. Presidents have had to look beyond the formal powers of the office to push a legislative agenda. In Between the Branches, a book of unprecedented depth, Kenneth Collier traces the evolution of White House influence in Congress over nine adminstrations, from Eisenhower to Clinton. It will enlighten students of the presidency, Congress, and all those interested in American politics.
The public, journalists, and legislators themselves have often lamented a decline in congressional lawmaking in recent years, often blaming party politics for the lack of legislative output. In Committees and the Decline of Lawmaking in Congress, Jonathan Lewallen examines the decline in lawmaking from a new, committee-centered perspective. Lewallen tests his theory against other explanations such as partisanship and an increased demand for oversight with multiple empirical tests and traces shifts in policy activity by policy area using the Policy Agendas Project coding scheme.
He finds that because party leaders have more control over the legislative agenda, committees have spent more of their time conducting oversight instead. Partisanship alone does not explain this trend; changes in institutional rules and practices that empowered party leaders have created more uncertainty for committees and contributed to a shift in their policy activities. The shift toward oversight at the committee level combined with party leader control over the voting agenda means that many members of Congress are effectively cut out of many of the institution’s policy decisions. At a time when many, including Congress itself, are considering changes to modernize the institution and keep up with a stronger executive branch, the findings here suggest that strengthening Congress will require more than running different candidates or providing additional resources.
Congress is a bicameral legislature in which both the House and Senate must pass a bill before it can be enacted into law. The US bicameral system also differs from most democracies in that the two chambers have relatively equal power to legislate and must find ways to resolve their disputes. In the current landscape of party polarization, this contentious process has become far more chaotic, leading to the public perception that the House and Senate are unwilling or unable to compromise and calling into question the effectiveness of the bicameral system itself.
With The Congressional Endgame, Josh M. Ryan offers a coherent explanation of how the bicameral legislative process works in Congress and shows that the types of policy outcomes it produces are in line with those intended by the framers of the Constitution. Although each bargaining outcome may seem idiosyncratic, the product of strong leadership and personality politics, interchamber bargaining outcomes in Congress are actually structured by observable institutional factors. Ryan finds that the characteristics of the winning coalition are critically important to which chamber “wins” after bargaining, with both conference committees and an alternative resolution venue, amendment trading, creating policy that approximates the preferences of the more moderate chamber. Although slow and incremental, interchamber negotiations serve their intended purpose well, The Congressional Endgame shows; they increase the odds of compromise while at the same time offering a powerful constraint on dramatic policy changes.
In Constitutional Deliberation in Congress J. Mitchell Pickerill analyzes the impact of the Supreme Court’s constitutional decisions on Congressional debates and statutory language. Based on a thorough examination of how Congress responds to key Court rulings and strategizes in anticipation of them, Pickerill argues that judicial review—or the possibility of it—encourages Congressional attention to constitutional issues. Revealing critical aspects of how laws are made, revised, and refined within the separated system of government of the United States, he makes an important contribution to “constitutionalism outside the courts” debates.
Pickerill combines legislative histories, extensive empirical findings, and interviews with current and former members of Congress, congressional staff, and others. He examines data related to all of the federal legislation struck down by the Supreme Court from the beginning of the Warren Court in 1953 through the 1996–97 term of the Rehnquist Court. By looking at the legislative histories of Congressional acts that invoked the Commerce Clause and presented Tenth Amendment conflicts—such as the Child Labor Act (1916), the Civil Rights Act (1965), the Gun-Free School Zones Act (1990), and the Brady Bill (1994)—Pickerill illuminates how Congressional deliberation over newly proposed legislation is shaped by the possibility of judicial review. The Court’s invalidation of the Gun-Free School Zones Act in its 1995 ruling United States v. Lopez signaled an increased judicial activism regarding issues of federalism. Pickerill examines that case and compares congressional debate over constitutional issues in key pieces of legislation that preceded and followed it: the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1997. He shows that Congressional attention to federalism increased in the 1990s along with the Court’s greater scrutiny.
Doing the Right Thing examines the use of extraordinary legislative procedures in four cases in the U.S. Congress to accomplish policy objectives that many political scientists would argue are impossible to achieve. It not only shows that Congress is capable of imposing parochial costs in favor of general benefits but it argues that Congress is able to do so in a variety of policy areas through the use of very different kinds of procedural mechanisms that are underappreciated.
The book opens by developing a theory of procedural choice to explain why Congress chooses to delegate in differing degrees in dealing with similar kinds of policy problems. The theory is then applied to four narrative case studies—military base closures, the Yucca Mountain Project, NAFTA, and the Tax Reform Act of 1986—that both show the variety of factors that impact procedural choice and highlight how our national legislature was able to “do the right thing.”
The book concludes by pointing to the variety of ways in which Congress will be confronted with similar policy problems in the coming years and offering some lessons from these cases about what kinds of procedures and policy outcomes we might expect. In short, Congress is remarkably adept at “doing the right thing,” even under difficult circumstances, but only when legislators are willing to manipulate procedures in all the necessary ways.
The House and the Senate floors are the only legislative forums where all members of the U.S. Congress participate and each has a vote. Andrew J. Taylor explores why floor power and floor rights in the House are more restricted than in the Senate and how these restrictions affect the legislative process. After tracing the historical development of floor rules, Taylor assesses how well they facilitate a democratic legislative process—that is, how well they facilitate deliberation, transparency, and widespread participation.
Taylor not only compares floor proceedings between the Senate and the House in recent decades; he also compares recent congressional proceedings with antebellum proceedings. This unique, systematic analysis reveals that the Senate is generally more democratic than the House—a somewhat surprising result, given that the House is usually considered the more representative and responsive of the two. Taylor concludes with recommendations for practical reforms designed to make floor debates more robust and foster representative democracy.
Campaign contributions are widely viewed as a corrupting influence but most scholarly research concludes that they have marginal impact on legislative behavior. Lynda W. Powell shows that contributions have considerable influence in some state legislatures but very little in others. Using a national survey of legislators, she develops an innovative measure of influence and delineates the factors that explain this great variation across the 99 U.S. state legislative chambers.
Powell identifies the personal, institutional, and political factors that determine how much time a legislator devotes to personal fundraising and fundraising for the caucus. She shows that the extent of donors' legislative influence varies in ways corresponding to the same variations in the factors that determine fundraising time. She also confirms a link between fundraising and lobbying with evidence supporting the theory that contributors gain access to legislators based on donations, Powell's findings have important implications for the debate over the role of money in the legislative process.
This volume represents the first section of F. A. Hayek's comprehensive three-part study of the relations between law and liberty. Rules and Order constructs the framework necessary for a critical analysis of prevailing theories of justice and of the conditions which a constitution securing personal liberty would have to satisfy.
A new edition of F. A. Hayek’s three-part opus Law, Legislation, and Liberty, collated in a single volume
In this critical entry in the University of Chicago’s Collected Works of F. A. Hayek series, political philosopher Jeremy Shearmur collates Hayek’s three-part study of law and liberty and places Hayek’s writings in careful historical context. Incisive and unrestrained, Law, Legislation, and Liberty is Hayek at his late-life best, making it essential reading for understanding the philosopher’s politics and worldview.
These three volumes constitute a scaling up of the framework offered in Hayek’s famed The Road to Serfdom. Volume 1, Rules and Order, espouses the virtues of classical liberalism; Volume 2, The Mirage of Social Justice, examines the societal forces that undermine liberalism and, with it, liberalism’s capacity to induce “spontaneous order”; and Volume 3, The Political Order of a Free People, proposes alternatives and interventions against emerging anti-liberal movements, including a rule of law that resides in stasis with personal freedom.
Shearmur’s treatment of this challenging work—including an immersive new introduction, a conversion of Hayek’s copious endnotes to footnotes, corrections to Hayek’s references and quotations, and the provision of translations to material that Hayek cited only in languages other than English—lends it new importance and accessibility. Rendered anew for the next generations of scholars, this revision of Hayek’s Law, Legislation, and Liberty is sure to become the standard.
F. A. Hayek made many valuable contributions to the field of economics as well as to the disciplines of philosophy and politics. This volume represents the second of Hayek's comprehensive three-part study of the relations between law and liberty. Here, Hayek expounds his conviction that he continued unexamined pursuit of "social justice" will contribute to the erosion of personal liberties and encourage the advent of totalitarianism.
Incisive, straightforward, and eloquent, this third and concluding volume of F. A. Hayek's comprehensive assessment of the basic political principles which order and sustain free societies contains the clearest and most uncompromising exposition of the political philosophy of one of the world's foremost economists.
When members are elected to the House of Representatives they have a certain freedom to decide how they will act as members and how they will build their reputations. Just as in the market place entrepreneurs build businesses, so in the House of Representatives members have the freedom to choose to build legislative programs that will enhance their reputations in the institution. And yet entrepreneurship is also costly to members. Gregory Wawro explains why members of the House engage in legislative entrepreneurship by examining what motivates them to acquire policy knowledge, draft legislation, build coalitions, and push their legislation in the House. He considers what incentives members have to perform what many have perceived to be the difficult and unrewarding tasks of legislating.
This book shows how becoming a legislative entrepreneur relates to members' goals of reelection, enacting good public policy, and obtaining influence in the House. The analysis differs from previous studies of this behavior, which for the most part have employed case study methods and have relied on anecdotal evidence to support their arguments. Wawro analyzes legislative entrepreneurship in a general and systematic fashion, developing hypotheses from rational-choice-based theories and testing these hypotheses using quantitative methods.
Wawro argues that members engage in legislative entrepreneurship in order to get ahead within the House. He finds that the more legislative entrepreneurship that members engage in, the more likely it is that they will advance to prestigious positions.
This book is of interest to students of Congress, legislative behavior and institutions, elections, and campaign finance.
Gregory Wawro is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Columbia University.
William Bernhard and Tracy Sulkin University of Chicago Press, 2018 Library of Congress JK1083.B47 2018 | Dewey Decimal 331.76132873
Once elected, members of Congress face difficult decisions about how to allocate their time and effort. On which issues should they focus? What is the right balance between working in one’s district and on Capitol Hill? How much should they engage with the media to cultivate a national reputation? William Bernhard and Tracy Sulkin argue that these decisions and others define a “legislative style” that aligns with a legislator’s ambitions, experiences, and personal inclinations, as well as any significant electoral and institutional constraints.
Bernhard and Sulkin have developed a systematic approach for looking at legislative style through a variety of criteria, including the number of the bills passed, number of speeches given, amount of money raised, and the percentage of time a legislator voted in line with his or her party. Applying this to ten congresses, representing twenty years of congressional data, from 1989 to 2009, they reveal that legislators’ activity falls within five predictable styles. These styles remain relatively consistent throughout legislators’ time in office, though a legislator’s style can change as career goals evolve, as well as with changes to individual or larger political interests, as in redistricting or a majority shift. Offering insight into a number of enduring questions in legislative politics, Legislative Style is a rich and nuanced account of legislators’ activity on Capitol Hill.
Politics is at its most dramatic during debates over important pieces of legislation. It is thus no stretch to refer to legislation as a living, breathing force in American politics. And while debates over legislative measures begin before an item is enacted, they also endure long afterward, when the political legacy of a law becomes clear.
Living Legislation provides fresh insights into contemporary American politics and public policy. Of particular interest to the contributors to this volume is the question of why some laws stand the test of time while others are eliminated, replaced, or significantly amended. Among the topics the essays discuss are how laws emerge from—and effect change within—coalition structures, the effectiveness of laws at mediating partisan conflicts, and the ways in which laws interact with broader shifts in the political environment. As an essential addition to the study of politics, Living Legislation enhances understanding of democracy, governance, and power.
In recent years, many Americans and more than a few political scientists have come to believe that democratic deliberation in Congress—whereby judgments are made on the merits of policies reflecting the interests and desires of American citizens—is more myth than reality. Rather, pressure from special interest groups, legislative bargaining, and the desire of incumbents to be reelected are thought to originate in American legislative politics. While not denying such influences, Joseph M. Bessette argues that the institutional framework created by the founding fathers continues to foster a government that is both democratic and deliberative, at least to some important degree.
Drawing on original research, case studies of policymaking in Congress, and portraits of American lawmakers, Bessette demonstrates not only the limitations of nondeliberative explanations for how laws are made but also the continued vitality of genuine reasoning on the merits of public policy. Bessette discusses the contributions of the executive branch to policy deliberation, and looks at the controversial issue of the proper relationship of public opinion to policymaking.
Informed by Bessette's nine years of public service in city and federal government, The Mild Voice of Reason offers important insights into the real workings of American democracy, articulates a set of standards by which to assess the workings of our governing institutions, and clarifies the forces that promote or inhibit the collective reasoning about common goals so necessary to the success of American democracy.
"No doubt the best-publicized recent book-length work on Congress is columnist George Will's diatribe in praise of term limits in which the core of his complaint is that Congress does not deliberate in its decision-making. Readers who are inclined to share that fantasy would do well to consult the work of Joseph M. Bessette. He turns up massive amounts of material attesting to the centrality of deliberation in congressional life."—Nelson W. Polsby, Presidential Studies Quarterly
Victoria Nourse argues that lawyers must be educated on the basic procedures that define how Congress operates today. Lawmaking creates winners and losers. If lawyers and judges do not understand this, they may embrace the meanings of those who opposed legislation, turning legislative losers into judicial winners and standing democracy on its head.
Whatever you think about the widening divide between Democrats and Republicans, ideological differences do not explain why politicians from the same parties, who share the same goals and policy preferences, often argue fiercely about how best to attain them. This perplexing misalignment suggests that we are missing an important piece of the puzzle. Political scientists have increasingly drawn on the relationship between voters’ personalities and political orientation, but there has been little empirically grounded research looking at how legislators’ personalities influence their performance on Capitol Hill.
With More Than a Feeling, Adam J. Ramey, Jonathan D. Klingler, and Gary E. Hollibaugh, Jr. have developed an innovative framework incorporating what are known as the Big Five dimensions of personality—openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—to improve our understanding of political behavior among members of Congress. To determine how strongly individuals display these traits, the authors identified correlates across a wealth of data, including speeches, campaign contributions and expenditures, committee involvement, willingness to filibuster, and even Twitter feeds. They then show how we might expect to see the influence of these traits across all aspects of Congress members’ political behavior—from the type and quantity of legislation they sponsor and their style of communication to whether they decide to run again or seek a higher office. They also argue convincingly that the types of personalities that have come to dominate Capitol Hill in recent years may be contributing to a lot of the gridlock and frustration plaguing the American political system.
Dysfunction in the contemporary Senate is driven by the deteriorating relationship between the majority and minority parties in the institution. In this environment, regular order is virtually nonexistent and unorthodox parliamentary procedures are frequently needed to pass important legislation. This is because Democrats and Republicans are now fighting a parliamentary war in the Senate to help steer the future direction of the country. James Wallner presents a new, bargaining model of procedural change to better explain the persistence of the filibuster in the current polarized environment, and focuses on the dynamics ultimately responsible for the nature and direction of contested procedural change. Wallner’s model explains why Senate majorities have historically tolerated the filibuster, even when it has been used to defeat their agenda, despite having the power to eliminate it unilaterally at any point. It also improves understanding of why the then-Democratic majority chose to depart from past practice when they utilized the nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster for one of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees in 2013. On Parliamentary War’s game-theoretic approach provides a more accurate understanding of the relationship between partisan conflict and procedural change in the contemporary Senate.
Politicians and pundits alike have complained that the divided governments of the last decades have led to legislative gridlock. Not so, argues Keith Krehbiel, who advances the provocative theory that divided government actually has little effect on legislative productivity. Gridlock is in fact the order of the day, occurring even when the same party controls the legislative and executive branches. Meticulously researched and anchored to real politics, Krehbiel argues that the pivotal vote on a piece of legislation is not the one that gives a bill a simple majority, but the vote that allows its supporters to override a possible presidential veto or to put a halt to a filibuster. This theory of pivots also explains why, when bills are passed, winning coalitions usually are bipartisan and supermajority sized. Offering an incisive account of when gridlock is overcome and showing that political parties are less important in legislative-executive politics than previously thought, Pivotal Politics remakes our understanding of American lawmaking.
Although the U.S. Constitution requires that the House of Representatives and the Senate pass legislation in identical form before it can be sent to the president for final approval, the process of resolving differences between the chambers has received surprisingly little scholarly attention. Hong Min Park, Steven S. Smith, and Ryan J. Vander Wielen document the dramatic changes in intercameral resolution that have occurred over recent decades, and examine the various considerations made by the chambers when determining the manner in which the House and Senate pursue conciliation. Politics Over Process demonstrates that partisan competition, increasing party polarization, and institutional reforms have encouraged the majority party to more creatively restructure post-passage processes, often avoiding the traditional standing committee and conference processes altogether.
Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution requires that every U.S. Senator and Representative, as well as all members of any state legislature, take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution. Legislators, after all, must accept the basic principles embodied in the Constitution and Bill of Rights when interpreting questions of law. The only way to change these principles is through amendments to the Constitution. But in an increasing number of cases, contends Michael A, Bamberger, our legislators are knowingly abdicating their responsibility to uphold the Constitution. Instead of considering the constitutionality of legislation, they vote for what is politically expedient and popular, leaving it to the courts to determine the legality of their actions. Bamberger argues that legislators have a duty to consider constitutionality and not “pass the buck” to the judiciary regardless of political pressures or even well-meaning intentions to achieve desirable policy objectives.
Reckless Legislation examines legislative consideration and avoidance of issues of constitutionality through a number of examples: the regulation of the Internet by Congress and two state legislatures; the reliance by legislatures of Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Tennessee on “experts” to justify passage of unconstitutional laws; the repeated passage of unconstitutional laws in New York and Missouri relating, respectively, to religion and abortion to wear down the courts and the opposition; and the efforts by Congress to reverse Supreme Court decisions believed by it to be incorrect or harmful.
Bamberger urges legislators to avoid the political motives that lead to “reckless legislation,” recommending that they “make full use of the full panoply of available support services . . . for a better and deeper knowledge of the issues raised.”
Cultural factions are an intrinsic part of the fabric of American politics. But does this mean that there is no room for compromise when groups hold radically different viewpoints on major issues? Not necessarily. For example, in a June 2003 Time/CNN poll, 49% of respondents identified themselves as pro-choice and 46% identified as pro-life. But in the same poll, 81% indicated that abortion should be "always legal" or "sometimes legal," suggesting that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are not discrete positions but allow room for compromise.
How do legislators legislate policy conflicts that are defined in explicitly cultural terms such as abortion, gay marriage, and school prayer? American political institutions are frequently challenged by the significant conflict between those who embrace religious traditionalism and those who embrace progressive cultural norms. Uncompromising Positions: God, Sex, and the U.S. House of Representatives investigates the politics of that conflict as it is manifested in the proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives. Oldmixon traces the development of these two distinct cultures in contemporary American politics and discusses the decision-making and leadership tactics used by legislators to respond to this division of values. She argues that cultural conflict produces an absolutist politics that draws on religious values not amenable to compromise politics. One possible strategy to address the problem is to build bipartisan coalitions. Yet, interviews with House staffers and House members, as well as roll calls, all demonstrate that ideologically driven politicians sacrifice compromise and stability to achieve short-term political gain. Noting polls that show Americans tend to support compromise positions, Oldmixon calls on House members to put aside short-term political gain, take their direction from the example of the American public, and focus on finding viable solutions to public policy—not zealous ideology.