Majority Party Strategy and Suspension of the Rules in the House, Legislative Studies Quarterly
Replication data and code available here.
Most bills that pass the House of Representatives do so under suspension of the rules. Despite the procedure’s prevalence, however, we know little about its systematic use. Although the supermajoritarian threshold for passage of bills under suspension typically precludes the majority party from using these bills for partisan policy, I argue that leadership control over the procedure still allows for the pursuit of party goals. Speakers split the suspension agenda between non-controversial but substantively important legislation, and parochial bills that serve credit claiming goals of individual members. While the minority party is not entirely shut out of the process, I argue that Speakers have been strategic in appeasing minority party demands for inclusion. Using data on bills considered under suspension from 1973-2015, I demonstrate that the distribution of suspension bills systematically favors electorally vulnerable majority party incumbents, and largely excludes their minority party counterparts.
Replication data and code available here. Additionally, see our blog post on the Political Behavior website, and listen to an interview with co-author Sarah Treul on the Niskanen Center’s The Science of Politics podcast. Our article was also mentioned in this article on FiveThirtyEight.
For years, Republicans in Congress promised to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. The results of the 2016 elections put them in position to take action on the seminal domestic policy achievement of outgoing President Barack Obama. Repeal efforts faced many obstacles, including angry constituents crowding town hall style meetings with Republican members. Many members faced a stark choice between voting with their constituents or voting with their party. We use data on the number of town halls held by members to analyze whether members who heard from upset constituents were more likely to oppose the repeal effort. Next, we utilize data on House primaries and the 2018 general election to test whether the member’s position on repeal had any effects on the member’s electoral success. We find clear evidence that member’s voting behavior on the health care repeal had electoral effects in the 2018 general election.
Place Matters: Government Capacity, Community Characteristics, and Social Capital across United States Counties, forthcoming in Journal of Public Policy
Communities with high levels of social capital enjoy an array of positive economic and community development outcomes. We assess the role of several key community characteristics, including the strength of government institutions, in explaining local social capital variation. The analysis draws on data from US counties and includes regression modeling and a Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition to explore differences in social capital across an area’s metropolitan status and region. The data show social capital determinants vary by place both due to the endowment levels of these determinants and the productive value of their coefficients. For example, the coefficient productive values of government capacity explain some differences in social capital levels across metropolitan status (but not across region). Concurrently, variations in government capacity endowment levels help explain some differences in social capital levels across region (but not across metropolitan status).
I am currently working on a number of coauthored papers. Michael Pomirchy (Princeton) and I are working on a formal model of congressional oversight during divided government, in which we use an accountability framework to explore political and electoral drivers of variation in oversight activity. Additionally, Sarah Treul (UNC) and I are working on a paper that examines how majority party leaders in the US House use information generated by committee markups to inform whether and how bills are considered on the floor.
My M.A. thesis, “Committees and Delegation in the US House of Representatives,” uses text analysis to identify instances in which standing committees in the House add language during markup that delegates discretion to the executive branch. I find that committee staff size and ideological congruence among majority party leadership are important factors in the committee-level decision to draft detailed legislation in markup. Additionally, I find mixed support for the assertion that divided government incentivizes committees to constrain the executive branch through the addition of specific policy language in committee markup. I summarize this work in a LegBranch blog post.