front cover of Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House
Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House
David W. Rohde
University of Chicago Press, 1991
Since the Second World War, congressional parties have been characterized as declining in strength and influence. Research has generally attributed this decline to policy conflicts within parties, to growing electoral independence of members, and to the impact of the congressional reforms of the 1970s. Yet the 1980s witnessed a strong resurgence of parties and party leadership—especially in the House of Representatives.

Offering a concise and compelling explanation of the causes of this resurgence, David W. Rohde argues that a realignment of electoral forces led to a reduction of sectional divisions within the parties—particularly between the northern and southern Democrats—and to increased divergence between the parties on many important issues. He challenges previous findings by asserting that congressional reform contributed to, rather than restrained, the increase of partisanship. Among the Democrats, reforms siphoned power away from conservative and autocratic committee chairs and put control of those committees in the hands of Democratic committee caucuses, strengthening party leaders and making both party and committee leaders responsible to rank-and-file Democrats. Electoral changes increased the homogeneity of House Democrats while institutional reforms reduced the influence of dissident members on a consensus in the majority party. Rohde's accessible analysis provides a detailed discussion of the goals of the congressional reformers, the increased consensus among Democrats and its reinforcement by their caucus, the Democratic leadership's use of expanded powers to shape the legislative agenda, and the responses of House Republicans. He also addresses the changes in the relationship between the House majority and the president during the Carter and Reagan administrations and analyzes the legislative consequences of the partisan resurgence.

A readable, systematic synthesis of the many complex factors that fueled the recent resurgence of partisanship, Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House is ideal for course use.

front cover of Partisan Gerrymandering and the Construction of American Democracy
Partisan Gerrymandering and the Construction of American Democracy
Erik J. Engstrom
University of Michigan Press, 2016

Erik J. Engstrom offers a historical perspective on the effects of gerrymandering on elections and party control of the U.S. national legislature. Aside from the requirements that districts be continuous and, after 1842, that each select only one representative, there were few restrictions on congressional districting. Unrestrained, state legislators drew and redrew districts to suit their own partisan agendas. With the rise of the “one-person, one-vote” doctrine and the implementation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, however, redistricting became subject to court oversight.

Engstrom evaluates the abundant cross-sectional and temporal variation in redistricting plans and their electoral results from all the states, from 1789 through the 1960s, to identify the causes and consequences of partisan redistricting. His analysis reveals that districting practices across states and over time systematically affected the competitiveness of congressional elections, shaped the partisan composition of congressional delegations, and, on occasion, determined party control of the House of Representatives.


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Party Discipline in the U.S. House of Representatives
Kathryn Pearson
University of Michigan Press, 2015
Political party leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives command greater loyalty than ever from fellow party members in roll call votes, campaign contributions, and partisan speeches. In return, leaders reward compliant members with opportunities to promote constituent interests and to advance their own political careers. Denial of such privileges as retribution against those who don’t fully support the party agenda may significantly damage a member’s prospects.

Kathryn Pearson examines the disciplinary measures that party leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives employ to exact such loyalty, as well as the consequences for a democratic legislature. Drawing upon data from 1987–2010, Pearson identifies the conditions under which party leaders opt to prioritize policy control and those which induce them to prioritize majority control. She then assesses the ways in which these choices affect, on one hand, the party’s ability to achieve its goals, and on the other hand, rank-and-file members’ ability to represent their constituents. Astute party leaders recognize the need for balance, as voters could oust representatives who repeatedly support the party’s agenda over their constituents’ concerns, thereby jeopardizing the number of seats their party holds.

In her conclusion, Pearson discusses the consequences of party discipline such as legislative gridlock, stalled bills, and proposals banned from the agenda. Although party discipline is likely to remain strong as citizens become more cognizant of enforced party loyalty, their increasing dissatisfaction with Congress may spur change.

front cover of The Political Failure of Employment Policy, 1945–1982
The Political Failure of Employment Policy, 1945–1982
Gary Mucciaroni
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2023

This political history analyzes the failure of the United States to adopt viable employment policies, follows U.S. manpower training and employment policy from the 1946 Employment Act to the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982. Between these two landmarks of legislation in the War on Poverty, were attempts to create public service employment (PSE), the abortive Humphrey-Hawkins Act, and the beleaguered Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA).
Mucciaroni's traces the impact of economic ideas and opinions on federal employment policy. Efforts at reform, he believes, are frustrated by the tension between economic liberty and social equality that restricts the role of government and holds workers themselves accountable for success or failure. Professional economists, especially Keynesians, have shaped the content and timing of policy innovations in such ways as to limit employment programs to a social welfare mission, rather than broader, positive economic objectives. As a result, neither labor nor management has been centrally involved in making policy, and employment programs have lacked a stable and organized constituency committed to their success. Finally, because of the fragmentation of U.S. political institutions, employment programs are not integrated with economic policy, are hampered by conflicting objectives, and are difficult to carry out effectively.
    As chronic unemployment and the United States' difficulties in the world marketplace continue to demand attention, the importance of Mucciaroni's subject will grow. For political scientists, economists, journalists, and activists, this book will be a rich resource in the ongoing debate about the deficiencies of liberalism and the best means of addressing one of the nation's most pressing social and political problems.
    Mucciaroni's provocative theoretical analysis is buttressed by several years' research at the U.S. Department of Labor, access to congressional hearings, reports, and debates, and interviews with policy makers and their staffs. It will interest all concerned with the history of liberal social policy in the postwar period.


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The Politics of Herding Cats
When Congressional Leaders Fail
John Lovett
University of Michigan Press, 2021
In The Politics of Herding Cats, John Lovett looks at the relationship between media, Congress, and public policy, showing that leaders in Congress under normal circumstances control public policy on issue areas due to their status both within Congress and in the media by and large. When issue coverage on topics increases in media, however, other members seize on the opportunities to engage in the issue and shift public policy away from leader desires. As more members engage and more groups become involved, leaders lose the ability to control the process and are more likely to have problems actually getting public policy enacted. Lovett look at this phenomenon using newspaper coverage in the Washington Post over a 40-year period, both in terms of general analysis as well as individual case studies exploring agricultural subsidies (a low coverage topic), immigration (a changing coverage topic), and health care (a high coverage topic). As coverage increases, the amount leaders can control in the process decreases. Only under extreme circumstances, as seen in the Affordable Care Act, can leaders get anything done at all. The Politics of Herding Cats would be useful for those who wish to better understand the relationship between the media and Congress. It will also be useful to those who want to understand the relationship between actors in government and how the media has influenced American politics, as well as how individual members of Congress can go against party leaders on major issues.

front cover of Politics Over Process
Politics Over Process
Partisan Conflict and Post-Passage Processes in the U.S. Congress
Hong Min Park, Steven S. Smith, and Ryan J. Vander Wielen
University of Michigan Press, 2018
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.

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Post-Passage Politics
Bicameral Resolution in Congress
Stephen D. Van Beek
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995

“Megabills” that package scores of legislative proposals into House and Senate bills are a phenomenon of the congressional reforms of the 1970s and the agenda changes of the 1980s. These bills generate unprecedented disagreements between the House and Senate, requiring congressional leaders, the president, committee chairs, and junior members to play new roles in this struggle for resolution.

Conference committees of hundreds of members, informal negotiations among party leaders, and preconference strategizing and behavior are among the new realities of bicameralism that are viewed in this study. These conferences are vital because they generally are the last arenas in which large-scale changes can be made in legislation.

Van Beek uses a case study approach that investigates the legislative histories of recent bills on the savings and loan bailout, the major trade bill of the late 1980s, and several budget reconciliation bills. His research is brought to life through personal experience as a legislative aide, direct observation of Congress at work, and interviews with members, staff and lobbyists.


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Power Shifts
Congress and Presidential Representation
John A. Dearborn
University of Chicago Press, 2021
That the president uniquely represents the national interest is a political truism, yet this idea has been transformational, shaping the efforts of Congress to remake the presidency and testing the adaptability of American constitutional government.

The emergence of the modern presidency in the first half of the twentieth century transformed the American government. But surprisingly, presidents were not the primary driving force of this change—Congress was. Through a series of statutes, lawmakers endorsed presidential leadership in the legislative process and augmented the chief executive’s organizational capacities.
But why did Congress grant presidents this power? In Power Shifts, John A. Dearborn shows that legislators acted on the idea that the president was the best representative of the national interest. Congress subordinated its own claims to stand as the nation’s primary representative institution and designed reforms that assumed the president was the superior steward of all the people. In the process, Congress recast the nation’s chief executive as its chief representative. 

As Dearborn demonstrates, the full extent to which Congress’s reforms rested on the idea of presidential representation was revealed when that notion’s validity was thrown into doubt. In the 1970s, Congress sought to restore its place in a rebalanced system, but legislators also found that their earlier success at institutional reinvention constrained their efforts to reclaim authority. Chronicling the evolving relationship between the presidency and Congress across a range of policy areas, Power Shifts exposes a fundamental dilemma in an otherwise proud tradition of constitutional adaptation. 

The Ohio State University Press, 2006
It is well understood that the president is a powerful agenda-setting influence in Congress. But how exactly does the president, who lacks any formal power in early stages of the legislative process, influence the congressional agenda? In The Presidential Agenda, Roger T. Larocca argues that the president’s agenda-setting influence arises from two informal powers: the ability to communicate directly to voters and the ability to control the expertise of the many executive agencies that advise Congress on policy.
​Larocca develops a theoretical model that explains how the president can raise the public salience of issues in his major addresses, long accepted as one of the president’s strongest agenda-setting tools. He also develops a theoretical model that explains how control over executive agency expertise yields a more reliable and persistent influence on the congressional agenda than presidential addresses.
The Presidential Agenda tests these theoretical models with an innovative empirical study of presidential agenda setting. Using data from all House and Senate Commerce Committee bills from 1979 to 2002, Larocca converts information about bills into information about policy issues and then traces the path of presidential influence through the committee and floor stages of legislative consideration.

front cover of Proxmire
Bulldog of the Senate
Jonathan Kasparek
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2019
Proxmire: Bulldog of the Senate is the first comprehensive biography of one of Wisconsin’s most important, and entertaining, political figures. Known for championing consumer-protection legislation and farming interests, Senator Proxmire also fought continuously against wasteful government spending, highlighting the most egregious examples with his monthly “Golden Fleece Award.” Remembered by many Wisconsinites as a friendly, hand-shaking fixture at sporting events and state fairs, Proxmire was one of the few politicians who voted his conscience and never forgot about the people he represented.

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