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Politics Of The Usa Congress Notes

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John B. Bader. Taking the Initiative: Leadership Agendas in Congress and the "Contract with America". Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1996 David W. Rohde. Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House. Chicago, IL: Chicago UP, 1991 Matthew N. Green. The Speaker of the House: A Study of Leadership. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2010 Steven S. Smith, Jason M. Roberts & Ryan J. Vander Wielen. The American Congress. New York, YU: Cambridge UP, 2011 (7th ed.) Stephen S. Smith & Gerald Gamm, 'The Dynamics of Party Government in Congress'. Lawrence C. Dodd & Bruce I. Oppenheimer (eds). Congress Reconsidered. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2005 (8th ed.) Kathryn Pearson & Eric Shickler, 'The Transition to Democratic Leadership in a Polarised House'. Lawrence C. Dodd & Bruce I. Oppenheimer (eds). Congress Reconsidered. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2009 (9th ed.) Richard M. Skinner (2008). George W. Bush and the Partisan Presidency. Political Science Quarterly, 123:4 David C. Kimball & Samuel C. Patterson (1997). Living up to Expectations: Public Attitudes Toward Congress. The Journal of Politics, 59:3 Douglas B. Harris (1998). The Rise of the Public Speakership. Political Science Quarterly, 113:2 John H. Aldrich & David W. Rohde. The Transition to Republican Rule in the House: Implications for Theories of Politics. Political Science Quarterly, 112:4 Anthony Madonna (2011). Winning Coalition Formation in the US Senate: The Effects of Legislative Decision Rules and Agenda Change. American Journal of Political Science, 54 Walter Stone & Elizabeth Simas (2010). Candidate Valence and Ideological Positions in US House Elections. American Journal of Political Science, 54 David R. Jones (2010). Partisan Polarisation and Congressional Accountability in House Elections. American Journal of Political Science, 54 Laurel Harbidge & Neil Malhotra (2011). Electoral Incentives and Partisan Conflict in Congress: Evidence from Survey Experiments. American Journal of Political Science, 54 Stephen Ansolabehere & Philip Edward Jones (2010). Constituents' Responses to Congressional Roll-Call Voting. American Journal of Political Science, 54 Jeffrey Lazarus (2010). Giving the People What They Want? The Distribution of Earmarks in the US House of Representatives. American Journal of Political Science, 54


Gary Jacobson (2011). The Republican Resurgence in 2010. Political Science Quarterly, 126 Judy Schneider (2001). House and Senate Rules of Procedure: A Comparison. CRS Report for Congress Scott Ainsworth, et al. (2012). Congressional Response to Presidential Signing Statements. American Politics Research, 40 Brendan Nyhan, et al. (2012). One Vote out of Step? The Effects of Salient Roll Call Votes in the 2010 Election. American Politics Research, 40 Caitlin Dwyer & Sarah Treul (2012). Indirect Presidential Influence, State-Level Approval and Voting in the US Senate. American Politics Research, 40 Keith Krehbiel (1999). Paradoxes of Parties in Congress. Legislative Studies Quarterly, 24 Gregory Koger & Matthew Lebo (2012). Strategic Party Government and the 2010 Elections. American Political Research, 40 Eric Schickler & Gregroy Wawro, What the Filibuster Tells Us about the Senate, The Forum (2011) Daniel DiSalvo, Legislative Coalitions, Polarisation and the US Senate, The Forum (2011) Andrea Hatcher, The Electoral Risks of Senate Majority Leadership, or why Tom Daschle Lost and Harry Reid Won, The Forum (2011) Barry Burden, Polarisation, Obstruction and Governing in the Senate, The Forum (2011) Sarah Binder, Through the Looking Glass, Darkly: What Has Become of the Senate?, The Forum (2011) Gregory Koger, The Past and Future of the Supermajority Senate, The Forum (2011) Frances Lee, Making Laws and Making Points: Senate Governance in an Era of Uncertain Majorities, The Forum (2011)


John B. Bader. Taking the Initiative: Leadership Agendas in Congress and the "Contract with America". Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1996 Chapter 1: Setting Priorities in Divided Government

Majority leaders are strongest in divided government 1 because majority-party congressmen look to them to set policy priorities because they are empowered by their institutional authority: (a) Formal, e.g. floor-scheduling, power of appointment to House Rules and referral of bills to House committees; (b) Informal, e.g. right to chair committees, preside over caucuses, respond to State of Union.

As effective party heads and leader of opposition, leaders then set leadership priorities from those issues already on the congressional agenda, which will advance their goals: (a) partisan, (b) institutional, (c) policy.
Ø The leader first defines a goal, which is prior to the priority: as goals change, so do issues. Then he finds an issue placed on the congressional agenda by other policyactors, who have defined their issues such that they appeal to broad groups (e.g., turn debate about guns from freedom to police security). He matches the issues up to goals by considering intervening variables (feasibility given congressional support, public opinion, policy entrepreneur strength, etc.) and then redefines the issue to secure the match-up (e.g. Democrats prioritised healthcare in 1989 to demonstrate Republicans' insensitivity to uninsured). Issues vary with goals.

Speakers Albert, O'Neill and Wright had endorsed and promoted lists of priorities for their parties, but the Contract was the most visible example of leaders' prioritysetting: it was published in opposition and launched with greater fanfare.

Chapter 2: Learning Aggressive Leadership

Institutional change has encouraged more assertive congressional leadership, but leaders have retained discretion in choosing their roles because they get mixed signals about what would be most appropriate: incentive effects of divided government are partially offset by congressmen's resistance to centralised control. o Speaker of the House. Institutional reforms (e.g. control over committee appointments) since 1970s have strengthened speakership at expense of committee chairmen; speakers have adopted different roles to reflect their own experiences, which define the way that speakers take advantage of opportunities. o Majority Leader of the Senate has fewer institutional prerogatives (fewer rules, smaller chamber) so focus on personality is very important; priority-setting power has expanded but more as a product of learning than institutional change.


Regan appeared to dominate during divided government, but only because conservative Democrats gave him an effective majority. 2 4 Maybe this indicates that personality does matter - Gingrich was a failure because he was

Chapter 3: Strategic Goals (1) Partisan (a) Party differentiation follows from poor presidential relationships; with poor prospects for cooperation, majority party can only take the initiative and distance itself from WH. (Consider Reagan's assault on Congress - this provoked a partisan backlash.) (b) Demonstration of bipartisanship follows from cooperative relations: even in divided government, there is still a strong incentive to cooperate - this encourages the selection of non-confrontational priorities. (Consider Nixon's appeal for bipartisanship - Congress realised there was no point in unnecessary gridlock.) 100th Congress had good spirit of bipartisanship; Speaker Wright handed out ties with dancing donkeys and elephants!
(2) Institutional (a) Showing deference to others follows from members' independent goals, which need satisfying for cooperation: leader cannot take on committees otherwise. However, leaders can still set meaningful priorities: O'Neill controlled the floor calendar to induce accommodation from chairmen.
Ø Generally no deference towards president in divided government (cooperation or conflict) but expectations of presidential leadership can induce deference; Congress was fairly deferential in early years of: (i) Nixon - Great Society caused Congress to expect presidential initiation of legislation, so criticised for not doing enough; (ii) Reagan - landslide victory, so feared image of obstructionism. (b) Asserting congressional independence: all members benefit from being taken seriously. Leaders pick priorities to demonstrate equality in policymaking and independent capacity: post-war developments have required active reassertion of legislative competence. Democrats' response to Reagan Revolution was denial of 'rubber stamp'. (3) Policy (a) Proof of problem-solving competence becomes a leadership priority when sufficient congressmen prioritise solving policy problems and bicameral relations are good enough for change to be feasible. 100th Congress: after Iran-Contra and public dissatisfaction with Reagan, Democrats moved to prove their own competence. (b) Provision of personal policy leadership. Leaders cannot afford to designate an issue as a party priority without the means to see it through; Wright went too far, and Democrats failed to back his attempt to refute ethics charges. They can provide policy leadership when members want them to and when they are acknowledged experts; e.g. Mitchell was a credible advocate of Clean Air because of chairmanship of subcommittee. 5

Matthew N. Green. The Speaker of the House: A Study of Leadership. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2010 Chapter 1: The Speaker of the House of Representatives

Speakers may act as 'assertive legislative leaders', even against party preferences. Medicare Modernisation Act 2003 failed 210-214 after customary 17min voting, but Speaker Hastert kept voting open to lobby/bully for defections, closing vote at 216-215. Foley helped Clinton push NAFTA despite majority opposition of congressional Dems.

Goal-driven leadership: The Speaker exercises legislative leadership to achieve one or more of the goals attached to his positions as a congressman and Speaker: (a) Re-election
- as congressman and speaker; (b) Passage of policy; (c) Role-fulfilment: a. Qua party leader, given expectations of success from codified rules, others' beliefs and internalised standards; b. Qua supporter of institutional presidency given requirements for national unity, expectations of presidential policy predominance, presidential mandate (O'Neill on Reagan: "the people elected him, so you've got to give him a chance"); c. Qua leader of entire House: Speaker must defend internally (rights of members, smooth operation) and externally (defend legislature's power, authority and reputation).
Ø N.B. This theory is articulated explicitly against those that say that Speakers pursue only their re-election as Speaker.

The Speaker is most likely to exercise leadership when there is reasonable party unity (he wants to be re-elected Speaker) and the measure is salient to actors or institutions related to his goals.

When Speaker wants to win on the floor, his strategy depends on how close the bill is to legislators' ideal preferences. When it is closer to: (a) Majority party median legislator, Speaker may wish to win the floor-median legislator (when there is near-consensus in majority party), win the floor- and party-median legislator (when legislation is quite extreme), win a supermajority; (b) Minority party median legislator, e.g. Speaker may wish to pass legislation of president of opposite party, which Speaker endorses but party opposes: may try to win floor-median legislator (of his own party).

Chapter 4: Speaker Leadership in the Reform and Post-Reform House

In pre-reform era, seniority was sacrosanct, party leaders relied on informal means and floor-crossing was common. In 1970s, young activist Dems teamed up with moderate Reps to redistribute authority to members, subcommittees, caucuses and party leaders; reform granted the Speaker formal powers, compounded in 1994.


This coincided with an increased frequency of divided government: (a) Reduced willingness to defer to opposite-party presidents - more frequent and intense conflicts of interest with the other branch; (b) Unified and galvanised both parties in Congress - assertiveness was intended to improve majority-party prospects at presidential election. As a result, leadership goals now more closely approximate majority-party preferences.

Despite formal powers, Speakers still turn to the floor to see through major legislation. (a) Personal policy goals. Gingrich denounced Rep. Neumann's cuts to endangered species conservation from the plenum, although Republicans had no electoral interest in the programme and sought non-military cuts. When issue is of limited salience to the party, the leader can lobby for his desired policy outcome. (b) Fulfilling president-oriented roles. Clinton endorsed NAFTA as presidential candidate, despite opposition of labour unions and big Dem constituencies. Congress had already rejected fast-tracking presidential authority on the matter; Foley supported it, despite Dem opposition and public scepticism - his district liked it, but he also wanted to bolster WH. Foley argued for agreement on TV and lobbied behind the scenes; it got through despite majority Dems against it. (c) Helping congressional party. O'Neill led opposition to funding for the Contras; he brought forward the vote as soon as he had the votes, to prevent presidential lobbying - the motion fell and Dem alternative passed.


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