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The consequences of clout : agenda control in U.S. legislatures

  • Author(s): Kim, Henry Albert
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation is a study of the underpinnings of party government. The logic of party government brings together the logic of a power-seeking entity that needs to build broad coalitions, whose members often do not agree with each other on policy, and a policy-seeking entity that requires taking a clear position on issues and taking action to advance its chosen cause. Successful party government requires striking a sustainable balance between these conflicting goals. I contend that, in the U.S. House, the solution lies in the "cohesive power of public plunder, " dispensing targeted particularistic benefits to the policy dissidents in the majority party. These benefits help them counter the ill effects of their party affiliation among their constituents and keep their electoral prospects viable. They, in turn, provide the numbers to keep the majority's party hold on power secure. The balance between policy and particularism is struck through the elaborate intra-legislature distribution of procedural privileges and influence that I term clout among legislators that form the framework for complex logrolls. Party government maintains itself by assuring a greater share of clout for its members that can be traded for policy or pork that makes their party affiliation worthwhile. A key feature in assuring division of clout along the party line and thus providing for a stable party government is the centralized agenda setting regime that is answerable to the entire party. Such institutional setup provides majority party members with a privileged position in intralegislative bargaining over the minority. This dissertation investigates the consequences of centralized vs. decentralized agenda control regime for party government through the lens of partisan ties in state legislatures

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