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Legislative committees as loyalty-generating institutions

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The current debate over models of self-selection in Congress — whether Congressmen by-and-large find themselves on committees which most closely correspond to their constituents' interests — has implications for theories of Congressional organization. Building on recent findings which question a categorical self-selection process, in this paper we present a theory of committee function based on loyalty to party leaders. As a rationale for leadership privilege, and to provide context for our argument, we first present a theoretical framework based on a modified model of cooperation. We then focus on certain specifics of our leadership theory; that rank-and-file members vote leadership interests in exchange for leader support in gaining choice committee assignments and aid in passing legislation. This leads to predictions about voting patterns across committees. Static tests of these relations are performed, as well as those incorporating changes in voting patterns with seniority.

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We are grateful to Legi-Slate, most especially Ann Harris, for making the data available to us and to Tyler Cowen, Kevin Grier, Susanne Paine, Bob Reed, Joe Reid, Bob Tollison, and Bob Young for helpful comments. The authors assume responsibility for any errors.

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Coker, D.C., Crain, W.M. Legislative committees as loyalty-generating institutions. Public Choice 81, 195–221 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01053230

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  • Public Finance
  • Current Debate
  • Party Leader
  • Leadership Theory
  • Leader Support