UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

One-party deliberations in the U.S. House of Representatives Bendix, William Claus

Abstract

Over the last two decades, the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives has increasingly bypassed committee deliberations and restricted floor debate to prevent the minority party from shaping provisions in bills. In response to this rising partisanship, scholars have attempted to measure the direct influence that parties have on legislative outcomes, often by examining roll-call votes. However, they have done relatively little work on the decline of the committee system and the increasing control that majority-party leaders exert on legislative deliberations. In this project, I examine the way in which increasingly cohesive parties draft bills at the prefloor and floor stages of the legislative process. I ask two questions. First, when does the House majority party seize full control of bill development and exclude the minority party from decision-making? Second, what are the policy consequences of the House majority party barring the minority party from formal legislative deliberations? To answer the first question, I construct multiple measures of legislative actions and procedures for major bills developed between 1983 and 2008 in the House. I find that the majority party controls deliberations when its majority status is threatened or its policy goals face strong opposition. I also find that the majority limits discussion on bills designed to promote its electoral brand. These party-brand bills involve tax and welfare policies as well as moral issues. To answer the second question, I create new measures of bill defects and bill extremity to assess how legislative processes affect bill quality. I determine that truncated deliberation tends to produce substantively problematic legislation. Thus, the findings in this project reinforce concerns over and provide evidence of the negative effects of one-party lawmaking.

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