The Ohio State University Press

Parliaments and Legislatures

Edited by Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier and David T. Canon

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

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Parliaments and Legislatures

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101 Chambers

Congress, State Legislatures, and the Future of Legislative Studies

Although legislative studies is thriving, it suffers from one glaring weakness: a lack of truly comparative, cross-institutional research. Instead, research focuses overwhelmingly on the U.S. Congress. This unfortunate fixation limits the way scholars approach the testing of many compelling theories of legislative organization and behavior, and it ignores the invaluable research possibilities that comparison with the 99 American state legislative chambers offers. State legislatures are easily compared to Congress: They arise out of the same political culture and history. Their members represent the same parties and face the same voters in the same elections using the same rules. And the functions and roles are the same, with each fully capable of initiating, debating, and passing legislation. None of the methodological problems found when comparing presidential system legislatures with parliamentary system legislatures arise when comparing Congress and the state legislatures. However, while there are great similarities, there are also important differences that provide scholars leverage for rigorously testing theories. The book compares and contrasts Congress and the state legislatures on histories, fundamental structures, institutional and organizational characteristics, and members. By highlighting the vast array of organizational schemes and behavioral patterns evidenced in state legislatures, the authors demonstrate that the potential for the study of American legislatures, as opposed to the separate efforts of Congressional and state legislative scholars, is too great to leave unexplored.

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Authorizing Policy

Studies of federal policy agendas seeking to explain why laws pass and why policies change typically look to the political environment, focusing on the media, congressional hearings, presidential addresses, and preferences of legislators as agents of change. However, since World War II, Congress has used simple procedure—short-term authorizations—to control the timing of policy change across the spectrum of federal policy. This book examines how short-term authorizations create periods of policy stability, when implementation can occur, by allowing policies to be reconsidered only when an authorization expires. This simple procedural mechanism allows Congress to state when certain aspects of a law—such as authorizations of appropriations—will expire. By doing this, Congress creates a schedule for when a given policy will be considered and systematically steers the management of public programs by changing the resources and tools available to policy implementers. Understanding short-term authorizations may force a reexamination of existing theories of the policy process and congressional activity. Reauthorization politics may well shape member activities (e.g., the timing of bill introductions) as well as interest group activities (e.g., the timing of coalition formation). Reauthorizations also affect the behavior of agencies, which must be responsive to these legislative changes.

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Challenging Parties, Changing Parliaments

Women and Elected Office in Contemporary Western Europe

In Challenging Parties, Changing Parliaments, Miki Caul Kittilson examines women’s presence in party politics and national legislatures, and the conditions under which their entrance occurs. She theorizes that parties are more likely to incorporate women when their strategy takes into account the institutional and political “opportunity structures” of both the party and party system. Kittilson studies how women pressed for greater representation, and how democratic party systems responded to their demands. Research on women’s representation has largely focused at the national level. Yet these studies miss the substantial variations between parties within and across European democracies. This book provides systematic cross-national and case study evidence to show that political parties are the key mechanism for increasing women’s parliamentary representation. Kittilson uncovers party-level mechanisms that explain the growth in women’s parliamentary participation since the 1970s in ten European democracies. The inclusion of new challengers in party politics is often attributed to mounting pressures from activists and public opinion at large. This book contradicts the conventional wisdom by demonstrating that women’s gains within parties flow not only from pressure from party supporters, but also from calculated efforts made by the central party leadership in a top-down fashion under specific circumstances. Certainly women’s efforts are essential, and they can be most effective when they are framed, timed, and targeted toward the most opportune structures within the party hierarchy. Kittilson concludes that specific party institutions encourage women’s ascendance to the top ranks of power within a political party.

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Congress Responds to the Twentieth Century

Congress occupies a central place in the U.S. political system. Its reach into American society is vast and deep. Over time, the issues it has confronted have increased in both quantity and complexity. At the beginning, Congress dealt with a handful of matters, whereas today it has its hands in every imaginable aspect of life. It has attempted to meet these challenges and has changed throughout the course of its history, prodded by factors both external and internal to the institution. The essays in this volume argue therefore that as society changed throughout the twentieth century, Congress responded to those changes. Contributors include: George E. Connor, Bruce I. Oppenheimer, James E. Campbell, Steve J. Jurek , Susan Webb Hammond , Barbara Sinclair , Sarah A. Binder , Christopher J. Deering , Patricia A. Hurley , John R. Hibbing , Karen S. Hoffmam , Michael L. Mezey , Burdett A. Loomis

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Doing the Right Thing

Collective Action and Procedural Choice in the New Legislative Process

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, I find that 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.

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Parties, Rules, and the Evolution of Congressional Budgeting

Parties, Rules, and the Evolution of Congressional Budgeting traces how Congressional macrobudgeting has fundamentally changed the way in which Congress frames and enacts budget choices. Included in the analysis are the 1974 Budget Act, the Reagan tax cuts in 1981, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings mandatory deficit reduction plan of 1985, the Bush and Clinton deficit reduction packages in 1990 and 1993, the balanced budget agreement in 1997, and the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Analyzing the transition from a fragmented to a more centralized process reveals that macrobudgeting has restructured congressional rules and institutions, changed the way congress legislates, enhanced congressional capacity, and altered how Congress negotiates with the president. Lance T. LeLoup finds that rule changes and new institutions have contributed to growing partisanship in Congress by empowering party leaders and emphasizing the importance of budget votes for party reputation. With steadily increasing partisanship, this study presents evidence that divided government has significant consequences for both the budget process and budget outcomes. Combining qualitative and quantitative approaches, this book provides a historical institutional perspective on the evolution of congressional budgeting over three decades. It addresses important questions about national politics and developments in Congress, particularly concerning rules, the role of parties, and the consequences of divided government. The book concludes by considering what the findings might imply for national budgeting and deficits in the coming decade.

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The Power of People

Congressional Competition, Public Attention, and Voter Retribution

This book argues that the people play a vital role in controlling the actions of their representatives in Congress. In examining issues that divide constituent opinion from representatives’ desires, it finds that when the public is paying attention, members usually act against their own material interests. On those occasions when members do not heed the public’s warnings, they suffer an electoral punishment in their next election. These results suggest that, contrary to many congressional critics, democratic accountability has been, and continues to be, alive and well in America. In examining a unique set of issues that divide the public’s preferences from the interests of members of Congress—civil service reform, congressional pay, campaign finance reform, and term limits—The Power of the People finds that members of Congress whose hold on their seats are most tenuous are the most likely to forsake their personal desires to cast their lot with their constituents. The relationship is especially strong when the congressional actions garner media attention. Although rare, members of Congress have lost their seat for not following their constituents’ wishes on these issues.

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