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Students' Outlines of

Nivola & Rosenbloom (eds), Classic Readings in American Politics, 3/e.

Section VI: Congress

Compiled by Jeremy Lewis, last revised 14 Dec. '08.
23: Madison, "Federalist 51" 
24: Miller & Stokes, "Constituency Influence" 
25: Mayhew, "Divided We Govern" 
26: Polsby, "Institutionalization of the US House" 
27: Fenno, "Congressmen in Committees" 
499 TimeTable
499 Syllabus
305 Syllabus
305 TimeTable
    Nivola, #23 James Madison, Federalist 51: 
    by Chrystine D. Lake, Fall 2008
  •  Federalist 51 addresses the separation (partition) of power between the several departments laid out by the Constitution. 
  • This idea establishes the check and balance system and the separation of power. 
  • To do this Madison claims that each department should have a will of its own, that the executive, legislative, and judiciary magistracies should be elected by the people (though the judiciary deviates from this slightly), that each department should have different and varying power and be independent from the other, and that none should ‘encroach’ on the other. 
  • This was done to control the abuses of government against the people. ‘If men were angels, no government would be necessary to control the abuses of government. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary’ and ‘ambition must be made to counteract ambition’ are both very famous phrases from Federalist 51. 
  • Madison argues that the legislature should be divided between two separate bodies because the policy making body will possess the most power and influence. 
  • In the paper he argues the necessity of a separation of powers to protect the interest of the people, one department from another, state against central power, and to preserve the ideas of a Republic. 

    Nivola, #24 Warren E. Miller and Donald E. Stokes, Constituency Influence in Congress: 
    by Chrystine D. Lake, Fall 2008
  • Looks into how and to what extent constituents and their attitudes affect members of the House of Representatives. 
    • The effect constituents have now over their Representatives is different than how Edmund Burke had hoped it would be, which was for Congress to represent their interests, not their will. 
    • There have been many models of representation throughout American history (Burkean, instructed-delegate, and responsible party), but one has never dominated practice—they are often combined. 
  • Why are certain Congressmen and women elected? 
  • It is not always because of policy, so is it dependant on similar characteristics (ethnicity, religion…)? 
  • Most Americans are not informed about what goes on in Washington, but generally there seems to be a ‘measurable degree of congruence’ between district and legislator. 
  • The district can control the policy actions of their Representative in two ways: first, to elect a Representative who shares its views and beliefs; second, to get re-election that Representative must follow those beliefs. 
  • The article argues that American Congressmen do vote both their own policy views and their perceptions of their constituents’ views. 
  • Most people vote in Congressional elections by their national party affiliation but often do not know the runner’s voting record or history. 
  • ‘Congressmen feel that their individual legislative actions may have considerable impact on the electorate, yet some simple facts about the Representative’s salience to his constituents imply that this could hardly be true.’ 

  • This relationship is dependant on many different things: the local party, economic interests, the news media, racial and nationality organizations, ties to the national party, and our understanding of that relationship most comes from the Representatives ability to appear to be going by what the people want and believe. 
    24: Miller & Stokes, "Constituency Influence in Congress"
    By Jon Lyons, Fall 2007

    -Constituency control opposite to the conception of representation associated with Edmund Burke. Burke desired representatives to serve the constituency’s interest but not its will
    -The people of the responsible two-party system are conceived in terms of a national constituency as opposed to a local constituency.  Candidates appeal to the electorate in terms of a national party program and leadership. 
    -Many Congressman keep their tenure of office secure with district benefits and federal projects, not with reacting to and acting on public opinion of their constituency.
    -Congressman may try and understand policy preferences of constituents by responding to issues in terms of fairly broad evaluative dimensions. While specialized committees and executive agencies closely examine criteria that is specific to policies at hand, when proposals come before the House they are judged on more general evaluative dimensions
    -Advocates of popular sovereignty regard the citizen as a kibitzer who looks over the shoulder of their legislator. 
    -While kibitzer and legislator may disagree over some policy, they are thought to understand what the alternatives are.
    -Most Americans, though, are nearly totally uninformed about legislative issues in Washington. 
    -At best, the average citizen may have some general ideas about how the country should be run, which he or she is able to use when responding to surveys.
    -Constituency can control the policy actions of the Representative in two alternative ways:
    -One, the district chooses a Representative that so share their views that in following his own convictions he does his constituents will. 
    -The second involves the Representative’s following constituency attitude in order to win re-election. 


    Nivola, #25 David R. Mayhew, Divided We Govern: 
    by Chrystine D. Lake, Fall 2008
    • Does whether Congress is unified under one party or divided have a significant effect on how the government functions? 
  • David Mayhew asks 5 questions: 
    • 1. Even if important laws win enactment just as often under conditions of divided party control, might they not be worse laws? Isn’t ‘seriously defective legislation’ a likelier result? United people to create united policy goals might be less likely to write either clear ends or efficient means into their statures. They are also less likely to fully consider the results of the law later in time. 
    • 2. Even if important individual statues can win enactment regardless of conditions of party control, how about programmatic ‘coherence’ across statues? Mayhew first argues that cohesiveness is not always needed to create a government that functions—history proves him right. But, there are two forms of coherence that he looks at: ideological, which is the push of some type of ‘ideological packaging’ of legislation which is more difficult in a divided Congress, but is possible. The second type is budgetary coherence, which is a match between revenue and expenditure across all government programs. To this, Mayhew claims that some argue that single party control would have handled it better because of ideological uniformity or electoral accountability. Mayhew however leaves this aspect open because it can not be proven. 
    • 3.  Doesn’t government administration suffer as a result of divided party control? Doesn’t exaggerated pulling and hauling between president and Congress undermine the implementation of laws and, in general, the functioning of agencies and the administration of programs? The system of micro-management has effected how the administration runs, which focuses more on the ends than the means. The system was founded by a divided party system, but also occurred because of a ‘shock to they system’ (Watergate)—Mayhew argues that therefore divided control was a necessary part of the causal structure that triggered the micro-managing system. 
    • 4. Does the conduct of foreign policy suffer under divided party control? Mayhew specifies between ‘coordination’ vs. ‘non-coordination’. He says that the record was no worse when the government was divided than when it wasn’t and that bipartisan cooperation allows for executive progress in foreign affairs. 
    • 5. Are the country’s lower-income strata served less well under divided party control? Most argue that a unified majority is needed to deliver goods, but that history does not support this fact. 
    • In concluding, Mayhew argues that ‘it does not seem to make all that much difference whether party control of the American government happens to be unified or divided.’ 
    Nivola #25: David R. Mayhew, "Divided We Govern" 
    By Jon Lyons, Fall 2007
     -Mayhew begins by stating he believes united versus divided control has probably not made a difference during the postwar era (reference to WWII)
     -Mayhew argues at the national level political parties are more like policy factions than governing instruments
     -Mayhew poses a series of questions speculating about whether or not there is a significant difference in unified (UNI) and divided (DIV) party control
     -Mayhew first asks if important laws win enactment just as often under conditions of divided party control, might they not be worse laws? Or in other words, does DIV control produce defective legislation?
     -Uses Nixon passing a large expansion of entitlements into law but not regarding the effect of long-term costs as an example
     -Also sites a UNI control example-Lyndon Johnson’s drive to pass as many Great Society bills as he could while his sizable Democratic congressional majorities lasted. “Pass the bill now, worry about its effect and implementation later”. The anti-poverty program soon lost popular support and backing on Capitol Hill. Mayhew quotes Tocqueville in describing democracy’s laws as “almost always defective or untimely” in his conclusion that divided party control does not lower the quality of statues overall.
     -Mayhew discusses the issue of budgets and the argument that a single ruling party would not create serious deficits such as Reagan’s.
     -Despite Reagan’s unusual request, Congress agreed on severe tax cuts, heavy cuts in domestic spending, and increased defense spending along with hands off Social Security. 
     -Mayhew goes on to argue that the policies of individual presidents (such as Reagan) are to blame for the creation of a deficit.  Congress generally follows the lead on broad fiscal policies”
     -Mayhew uses multiple examples of DIV control foreign policy matters to argue DIV control is not a negative influence: Nixon’s opening to China and the Soviet Union, the Marshall Plan, and Bush 41’s liberation of Kuwait. There was little dissent in Congress on these policies, he argues.

    David R. Mayhew, “Divided We Govern”
    Kevin Akins, Spring 2004

     Divided government has existed since WWII, with the Presidency and Congress being controlled by different political parties.
     Mayhew concludes that divided control has not made a notable difference during 
    the post war, because of the varying role parties play at the national level (“policy factions rather than governing instruments”).

    Five questions concerning unified control, rather than divided control 
       1. Is it important that a law win enactment under conditions of divided party control?
        Under divided control, coalitions emerge, which results in legislation often without clear ends or efficient means in statutes; the effect of laws might also be lessened (i.e. 1975 Energy Policy & Conservation Act).
     Coalitions emerge, regardless of party, as regional politics is a factor (i.e. “demonstration cities” Act of 1966).
     Unified control can birth a frenzied policy, as shown by LBJ’s Great Society; the Pres. Rushed bills into law, while his Democratic Congress lasted, before fully thinking out the effects of each article of legislation.
     Divided party control does not lessen statute quality.

        2.Even if an important statute passes under divided control, what about programmatic coherence across statutes?
    To understand this, there are two types of coherence:  ideological & budgetary
      A. Ideological coherence
    large collections of laws that have the same ideological purpose. This has happened under both unified and divided governments (i.e. LBJ & Reagan).
      B. Budgetary coherence 
    A match between revenue and expenditure across all government programs. Regarding deficits of the1980s, some argue that unified party leadership would have eliminated monetary problems, but that is hopeful at best. Deficits are exempt to partisan leadership.

        3. Doesn’t government administration suffer as a result of divided party control? 
      Some argue that the implication of divided party control has increased “micro-managing.”
     Both President & Congress monitor the other, by increasing staff to watch daily actions.
      Whether divided or unified, Presidency and Congress know much about each other, bringing them closer through facts, but sometimes polarizing them by being at varying ends on policy.

        4.  Does the conduct of foreign policy suffer under divided party  control?
    Deadlocks are more likely to occur in divided control.
    Foreign policy control can be a domestic conflict.

        5.  Are the country’s lower-income strata served less well under 
    divided party control ?
    Both parties attempt to benefit, whether it is long-term scale or immediate government involvement.
    Rich can prosper when the government does nothing, but poorer are hurt w/o government participation.

     These five questions are not the only additional ones that might be asked about unified as opposed to divided party control. 
     Political parties can be a powerful instrument, but in the United States 
    they seem to play more of a role as policy factions than in Britain, where they’re a governing instrument.
     American politicians at the legislative and executive levels have managed to navigate the last two centuries without becoming minions of party leaders. 

    Nivola, #26 Nelson W. Polsby, The Institutionalization of The U.S. House of Representatives: 
    by Chrystine D. Lake, Fall 2008

  • Polsby explains how and why Congress was transformed from a ‘relatively open, flexible organization to one characterized by more difficult entry, less turnover, greater professionalization, and more routinization.’ 
  • How is the House of Representatives an institutionalized organization? 
    • 1. The Establishment of Boundaries: 
      • this refers to a channeling of career opportunities, in which the House went from an open organization to one that stabilized its membership, entry became more difficult, turnover is less frequent, leadership professionalized and persists, recruitment happens from within—this creates a hardening of boundaries.
    • 2. The Growth of Internal Complexity: this growth in complexity is seen impressionistically by Polsby. 
      • It can be seen in three ways: in the growth in the autonomy and importance of committees, in the growth of specialized agencies of party leadership, and in the general increase in the provision of various emoluments and auxiliary aids to members in the form of office space, salaries, allowances, staff aid, and committee staffs. 
    • 3.  From Particularistic and Discretionary to Universalistic and Automated Decision Making: 
      • This is displayed by the growth of seniority as a criteria fro determining committee rank and the practice of deciding contested elections to the House strictly on the merits. 
    • 4. Causes, Consequences, Conclusions: 
      • Not much is known of the causes of the institutionalization of the House of Rep. but Polsby claims that ‘As the responsibilities of the national government grew, as a larger proportion of the national economy was affected by decisions taken at the center, the agencies of the national government institutionalized,’ and also that that as the organization grew in size, it naturally institutionalized. 
      • As a result, the system seems to have become complex, but the power of the House has grown, and that new norms have been established within the organization. 

    26: Nelson W. Polsby, "Institutionalization of the US House"
    Doug Fontaine, Spring 2008

    - For a political system to be viable it must be institutionalized 

    •   Organizations must be created and sustained that are specialized to political activity,       or the political system is unstable 
    • Also must be in some sense free and democratic 
    - The process of institutionalization is one of the grand themes of the modern social science
    - Institutionalized organizations have 3 major characteristics 
    • It is well bounded
    • It is complex
    • The organization tends to use universalistic rather than particularistic criteria
    - Merit system replaces favoritism and neopotism
    - As an organization institutionalizes, it stabilizes its membership, entry is more difficult, and turnover is less frequent 
    - From the 18th – 19th centuries the house had a 50% turnover in 15 elections
    - In the 20th century the turnover has been much less, the greatest turnover was 37.2% during the Roosevelt land slide
    - The 1st 27 men who were speakers of the house never died while in office
    - The past 10 speakers of the house, 6 have died while serving
    - The decrease of newcomers in the house, has stabilized the ways of doing business within the house
    - Internal complexity
    • Growth of autonomy
    • Importance of committees
    • Growth of specialized agencies of party leadership
    • Growth of office space, salaries, allowances, staff aid, and committee staffs
    - During the Hamilton era, no committees were put into place
    - Clay installed 5 house committees
    - Influence of committees has increased during the 20th century
    - Differences between early and recent speakers of the house
    • Floor leaders in the 20th century are officially designated, while in the 19th century they were informally designated
    • 20th century floor leaders are separated from the committee system, while in the 19th century they were prominent committees leaders
    • 20th century  floor leaders rely on the whip system
    - Growth of resources has increased complexity 
    - No one should serve as a chairman of more than one committee
    - This process develops professional norms


    Nivola, #27 Richard F. Fenno, Jr., Congressmen in Committees:
    by Chrystine D. Lake, Fall 2008

  • When understanding the goal of obtaining certain committee positions for a Congressman, three different patterns were established. 
  • Within doing this, three general goals were discovered in relation to committee membership. 
  • These are goals are influence –oriented, re-election-oriented, and policy-oriented. 
  • The question is ‘do committees whose members have similar goals operate in similar environments? 
  • Though is a similarity between goals and environment internally in some cases, externally there are no similarities between environments. 
  • Therefore the environment is a largely independent variable. 
  • Fenno suggests that it is not possible to know the committees goals by know their environment, just as it is not possible to predict the characteristics of a committee’s environment by knowing only its members goals. ‘On every committee the members try to accommodate their personal goals to important environmental expectations and to embody this accommodation in broad, underlying guidelines for decision making.’ 

  • Richard F. Fenno, Jr., "Congressmen In Committees"
    John Martin, Fall 2007

  •  Fenno performed a study of six standing committees in the House of Representatives: 
  • Appropriations; Ways and Means; Interior; Post Office; Education and Labor; and Foreign Affairs.
    • The six committees were examined and categorized according to orientation: 
      • mostly influence oriented (App. & W and M), 
      • mostly reelection oriented (Int. & P.O.), and 
      • mostly policy oriented (Ed. and L & For. Aff.).
    •  Fenno also found that committee patterns based upon members’ goals correspond to patterns based on environmental constraints.
      • App. & W and W (influence-oriented): parent chamber served as most prominent environmental element; partisan
      • Int. & P.O. (reelection-oriented): clientele groups were most prominent environmental element; pluralistic
      • Ed. and L & For. Aff. (policy-oriented): virtually nothing in common with difficult behavior to describe; complex
    •  “Policy coalition” is defined as the interaction of policy subjects and characteristics.  This term provides another aspect to a committee’s environment besides member’s goals and involves active participation and constraints.
    •  Fenno’s research concluded that members of committees try to accommodate their personal goals to environmental expectations by using broad guidelines for decision-making.
    •  Fenno later sorted the six committees into two groups based upon decision-making
      • App./W and M/Int.- consensus on decision rules led to success.
      • Ed. and L/For. Aff./P.O.- unable to formulate consensus and resulted in dissatisfaction.
    •  Success on the House floor depended upon an agreement between committee members on an operative set of decision rules, and successful decision rules tended to reflect a consensus among committee members.
    •  Fenno analyzed committee’s internal decision-making processes and noted three factors:
      • Members’ goals.
      • Pressure from outside or interest groups.
      • Strategy to balance personal goals with environmental constraints.
    •  Decision-making autonomy assumed high levels of committee member’s influence.
      •  App./W and M/Int.- committee autonomy successful due to similar sources and results.
      •  Ed. and L/For. Aff./P.O.- committee autonomy questionable because of emphasis on environmental impact.
    •  Fenno explored external issues in regards to committee members and discovered that success resulted from agreement over decision-making rules, autonomy, consistency in House floor operations, and independence.
    •  Fenno kept the two groups of three committees each to define corporate and permeable aspects: 
      • App./W and M/Int.- corporate type of model with more influence; independence appeared most important, strengthening the feeling of group identity; corporate pride and identity; high levels of activity also were essential.
      •   Ed. and L/For. Aff./P.O.- permeable type of model with a quicker response; committee activity and consensual goals led to member satisfaction; greater environmental interest and influence.
    •  (All Senate committees fall under the permeable/responsive type of model.)