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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Do Parties Matter?


Do parties matters? Congressional scholars have for decades assumed they do; they have written about Congress as if parties are important and have provided what they believed was ample evidence that parties affect how Congress operates and, to varying extents, influence the substance of the legislation produced. Yet a number of prominent political scientists have contested what seemed obvious. My purpose here is to critically assess the argument that parties do not matter, suggest an alternative perspective and provide some supporting evidence. My tests focus primarily on special rules in the House, though I do present other bits of evidence that parties matter as well. I argue that indeed Congress can not be understood in the absence of parties and that parties do affect outcomes.

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