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Punishments, Incentives, and Oversight: How Legislators Turn Preference Into Policy

  • Author(s): Lauterbach, Erinn
  • Advisor(s): Bishin, Benjamin G
  • et al.

This dissertation explores if, when, and how individual members of Congress work to pursue their policy goals by putting forth effort to introduce new legislation that constrains the downstream actors who are tasked with interpreting, implementing, enforcing, and following the law. Although researchers have identified a variety of policy tools that legislators may use to limit the discretion of downstream political actors throughout the policymaking process, we do not yet have a way to measure this tool usage across policy issue and time. Given the extensive role that bureaucrats and other political actors play in the policymaking process, this limits our understanding of how Congress shapes our national laws and the role it plays in our separation-of-powers system.

Using an original dataset that identifies the presence of a broad range of legislative tools in bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, I offer a new way to measure the tool diversity (which I call \textit{legislative incentivization}) written into legislation. Applying this measure to 13,770 bills newly introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2005-2012, I provide evidence that institutional factors, such as committee membership and divided government, as well as extra-institutional factors, such as gender (and the intersection of gender with partisanship) play important roles in shaping legislator bill drafting behavior. Specifically, I show that the relationship between individual legislators, their experiences, and their policy goals have important consequences for how policy is made in the United States. These findings provide a new perspective on the role that institutional context and personal experience plays on the policymaking process in Congress.

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