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Monday, July 4, 2011

Pols

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Strategic Behavior in Congress falls between two broad categories


Choices involving the writing and enacting of legislation


Choices that set up congressional rules and institutions


Distributive Proposals � legislation that funds the construction of roads, buildings, and other projects. � Often described as wasteful because they are spending gov money on little projects that are of little use to anyone.


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18 Transportation Equity Act for the 1st Century � (“TEA-1”)


~Funded over $50 Billion worth of road projects.


~Described as “tasty highway pork”


~Pork-filled, election year plum for member of congress.”


~Some of these projects’ benefits are less than the costs.


~Overwhelming majority of house members and senators voted for it.


Legislators favor distributive proposals because delivering these benefits to constituents increases their chances of re-election.


Expanding Distributive proposals � ensures that every legislator who wants to claim credit has the opportunity to do so.


• Constituents support their efforts because if they don’t, pork barrel proposals will be enacted w/o providing them with anything.


• Districts of legislators � will receive projects and pay a share of the costs.


• Districts of legislators outside the coalition � will pay some but get no projects.


Committee Deference � why rational legislators let committee members to dominate the legislative process for proposals within their committee’s jurisdiction.


Committee members not experts � seen as a source of information and advice to colleagues not on the committee.


~House members allow them to decide things for them


• Deference is a way for legislators to implement a trade or deal, where they allow colleagues on other committees to act as they see fit in return for the same authority when their own committee considers a proposal.


• Occurs because members are assigned to high-salience committees with this information-sharing goal in mind.


For committees that deal with highly salient, controversial proposals, deference is a way for committee members to share their expertise and information with their colleagues.


• Rational Legislators defer to the members of high-salience committee because these groups were deliberately constructed to function as information sources for the rest of congress.


~~~Distributive Proposals � spend federal tax revenue on projects that benefit specific town, cities, or localities.


They are often called “pork-barrel projects” and are seen as a wasteful, inferior way to spend government money.


- Projects/programs are the kind of appropriation that gets mentioned on talk radio or by television comedians � because they are SILLY.


• NASA”s new space station � “orbiting pork-barrel”


• “Politicians are the same all over � they promise to make bridges all over when there are no rivers.”


Pork barrel supply benefits �


• Supply benefits to as many congressional districts as possible.


• Once supplied to a majority of districts � leading to majority leaders to vote for the proposal and enact it!


Distributive proposals like TEA -1 have TWO things in COMMON


• Voter benefits only if the distributive proposal funds a project near where the voter lives.


• A legislator’s support is generally tied to whether the measure provides something for her district.


How do rational legislators construct a distributive proposal?


• these proposals will deliver benefits to a bare majority of legislators � “minimum winning � legislation”


• Will supply benefits to as many districts as possible, with no attempt to limit the size or the cost of the proposal. “universalism”


Minimum winning legislation �


• Theory of minimum winning coalitions states that in a legislature that enacts proposals using the majority rule, the authors of a proposal should aim at attracting support from only a bare majority of legislators � no more no less.


• Adding more projects only increases the total cost of the proposal.


• The logic is explained as a PIE


• Gives you the largest piece and at the same time receives enough votes to be enacted.


Distributive proposals


• Theory predicts that the distributive proposals will be enacted by minimum wining coalitions.


Universalism


• The problem with predicting that distributive proposals will be enacted by minimum winning coalitions is that the theory doesn’t match reality.


• Legislators try to deliver benefits to as many districts as possible - EVEN if they have to increase costs.


• CREDIT CLAIMING � increases constituents’ evaluations of their member’s performance in office and thereby increases the member’s chances of reelection


• A member’s ability to claim credit has nothing to do with how many of her colleagues are also able to do so.


• Members evaluate distributive proposals in terms of credit claiming and PREFER universalism.


The key feature of pork-barrel proposals is that they provide opportunities for everyone to claim credit where one member’s ability to claim credit doesn’t in any way reduce his or her colleagues from doing so.


Universalism NORM � it defuses opposition.


• Expanding the size of distributive proposals minimizes the number of legislators who might use delaying or publicity tactics.


• Universalism expands the number of legislators who want the proposal enacted so they can claim credit.


Legislators can only claim credit when constituents are happy.


KEY


• Voters are mis-informed about the benefits and costs of distributive proposals.


• Constituents underestimate the costs, and will reward their legislator.


• There is pressure to deliver!


• Rationality does not ensure favorable consequences.


• Credit claiming is reduced by formulas for budgets, and for formula-based allocations is extremely difficult.


Foreign Aid


• Nothing to claim credit for � no attention given.


The drive to create opportunities for credit claiming can turn small experimental programs into large, expensive “boondoggles.”


Model Cities 160’s


• Intended to fund 5-10 projects to find a way to prevent the decay of central cities.


• Instead it was expanded and all of the ideas for this project instead was spread out in cities all over instead on centralizing the money to serve the project better.


• Expanded programs become substitutes for actions that local governments or the private sector would have taken in any case.


Emergency Spending bills in congress


• Designed to help communities after a natural disaster often balloon into catch all bulls that fund a wide range of problems.


• Once members know a bill will be passed they jump on the band wagon and try to get things for their districts included in the bill.


Woodrow Wilson


• In his doctoral dissertation wrote, “Congress on the floor is congress on display; congress in committee is congress at work.”


• Committees are the heart


• Committee members plan and manage floor debate


When members of a committee report a new proposal to the full house for consideration, legislators who are not on the committee defer to the wishes and opinions of committee members.


• Deference implies that members accept an argument and approve a proposal even if they know nothing about it.


• Problem with deference � giving up your decision-making power to a small group within the congress.


The House of Representatives is supposed to operate with a majority 50 percent plus one to pass things.


Why Deference?


• Two classes of committees


o Low salience � deals with programs and policies that few legislators consider interesting or important


o High salience � deals with issues of national importance.


The primary function of congressional committees is to develop legislative proposals for consideration by the entire House.


LOW-SALIENCE


Science committee


• Devise an annual budget for each of the agencies and programs in their jurisdiction, deal with new policy proposals that are referred to them, hold hearings on policy questions, and construct their own policy initiatives.


• Confirm the low salience description label attached to them.


• Salience is a measure of worry and importance that a person cares about something.


• Low salience is a perfect setting for deference, with trades between members.


Two reasons House members defer on low salience committees


1. Not interested


. Unspoken agreement where members trade away influence over issues they don’t care about in return for being allowed extra influence over the issues they consider important.


Anyone who wants to be on a low-salience committee gets to be.


Unwritten provisions on deference


• The most important is that committees can not expect deference if they propose things that are extreme or extravagant.


High Salience Committees


Mechanisms that facilitate deference on low salience congressional committees will not work on high-salience ones.


EX Ways and Means Comm., Appropriations Comm.


High salience jurisdictions involve almost all members and they have strong preferences on them. IMPORTANT issues.


• Legislators not on committees are unwilling to let others make decisions on such important issues, and they get more involved.


• Committee members are experts on a specific topic.


• Procedures used to assign members to high salience committees facilitate deference, and create committees of experts who supply information on certain proposals.


• Deference on the floor is rewarded for good behavior and careful assignments.


170 appropriations committee


Deference was the norm.


Late 160’s


• Informal rules governing assignments to this committee broke down.


• Members could no longer be sure that the appropriations committee would carry out its assigned task, viewed as biased towards personal interests in gov monies.


• Power to determine the size of the federal budget was given to a new committee the BUDGET COMMITTEE is born!


• Deference declines …..


Committee Deference


Members of the house of reps allow congressional committee members to dominate the writing of policy proposals within their jurisdiction.


Two reasons


• One that applies to low salience committees, and one to high.


• Low personal interests, relevant to their constituents.


• High goal of the committee representative, and can spend money on research and experts, investigations.


Deference is a rational choice � facilitates trade across jurisdictions, where legislators can focus on jurisdictions that interest them.


SEPERATION OF POWERS AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH


Fundamental institution of America’s national government


• The separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.


• Once legislation is enacted the implementation is the job of the bearcats.


• The separation of writing laws and the implementation of them creates a NEW TASK for the members of congress


o Oversight or determining whether bureaucratic actions are consistent with the intent of the laws they were given to implement.


The Power of the Veto


Checks and Balances


• No federal government can make policy by itself.


• The veto power translates this principle into concrete rules and procedures.


Two distinct procedures for enacting laws


• A proposal receives a simple majority in the house and the senate, plus the president’s consent.


• A proposal receives a majority vote in congress, and presidential veto, and then passage though both houses by two thirds vote.


• IMPORTANT president has ten days to act otherwise the bill becomes a law automatically.


• The president’s power to veto makes him an equal partner to the legal process.


First mover advantage


• Members of congress have this when a president considers a bill because he can either sign the legislation into a law or veto it. � Not a lot of le-way for the president.


• Congress can use this to their advantage and include things for their own personal interests and the presidents knowing that he will sign it into action and reap their benefits from giving a little to him!


• Veto threat � influences the kinds of policies that are enacted in the House and Senate.


• The power of the president’s veto is seriously affected by the size of the congressional coalition in favor of a piece of legislation, the president’s intentions, and the timing in a congressional session.


• When there is majority in both houses but not a two thirds majority the PRESIDENTIAL vote is crucial.


Congressional Oversight


• Congressional Oversight � three reasons


o Oversight is lax, power flows from the legislative branch to the executive.


o The systematic investigation of government programs by legislators and their staffs.


o Comparing intent to implications, and is the job of bureaucracy,(study laws and loop holes and find ways implement limits on the interpretation of the laws.)


Problems with relying on bureaucrats


• Do the bureaucrats have it right? Do they misinterpret the laws goals?


• Implementing congressional goals or their own?





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