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The Substance of Representation

The Substance of Representation: Congress, American Political Development, and Lawmaking

John S. Lapinski
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  • Book Info
    The Substance of Representation
    Book Description:

    Lawmaking is crucial to American democracy because it completely defines and regulates the public life of the nation. Yet despite its importance, political scientists spend very little time studying the direct impact that the politics surrounding a particular issue has on lawmaking. The Substance of Representation draws on a vast range of historical and empirical data to better understand how lawmaking works across different policy areas. Specifically, John Lapinski introduces a theoretically grounded method for parsing policy issues into categories, and he shows how policymaking varies in predictable ways based on the specific issue area being addressed.

    Lapinski examines the ways in which key factors that influence policymaking matter for certain types of policy issues, and he includes an exhaustive look at how elite political polarization shifts across these areas. He considers how Congress behaves according to the policy issue at hand, and how particular areas--such as war, sovereignty issues, and immigration reform--change legislative performance. Relying on records of all Congressional votes since Reconstruction and analyzing voting patterns across policy areas from the late nineteenth to late twentieth centuries, Lapinski provides a comprehensive historical perspective on lawmaking in order to shed light on current practices.

    Giving a clear picture of Congressional behavior in the policymaking process over time, The Substance of Representation provides insights into the critical role of American lawmaking.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4863-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Chapter I Policy Issue Substance and the Revitalization of Legislative Studies
    (pp. 1-18)

    When legislative studies exploded in the 1960s and 1970s, many scholars took seriously the idea that policy issue substance was theoretically and empirically a very important consideration. During this earlier moment, scholars such as Theodore Lowi (1964, 1970, 1972), Aage Clausen (1967, 1973), David Mayhew (1966), and a young aspiring PhD candidate (and future Congress member and vice president), Richard Cheney (Clausen and Cheney 1970) were curious about how the types and content of issues under discussion shape political behavior and how lawmaking subsequently produces particular policy outputs.¹ At the outset of this fertile period for legislative studies—which would...

  5. Chapter II Bringing Policy Issue Substance Back In
    (pp. 19-53)

    Over the last three decades, the study of lawmaking has become dominated by “lumpers”—those who aggregate data and attempt to assess the bigger picture—instead of “splitters,” who care most about the particulars of lawmaking.¹ When congressional studies took off in the 1960s and 1970s, splitters dominated the study of Congress and lawmaking. During this earlier moment, scholars were curious about how the types and content of issues shape political behavior and, in turn, how lawmaking works to produce particular policy outputs. Unfortunately, this substance-centered work ended prematurely before realizing its full potential.² As deductive theory gained prominence within...

  6. Chapter III Political Polarization and Issues: A New Perspective
    (pp. 54-68)

    Most congressional studies, especially empirically based ones, ultimately study political behavior. Because these types of studies typically utilize roll call measures (such as interest group scores, ideal point estimates, roll rates, coalition sizes, and voting behavior on selected votes), the contributions to what we know about the U.S. Congress, as well as the controversies in this field of study, are often closely connected to the analysis and interpretation of roll calls. Roll call votes are relied upon heavily in contemporary work on Congress, but they have been studied seriously by Congress scholars for a very long time. Roll call analyses...

  7. Chapter IV The Case Studies: Policy Issue Substance and the Political Behavior of Members of Congress
    (pp. 69-103)
    David Bateman

    This chapter explores in detail the importance of policy issue substance to the study of significant instances of lawmaking across American history. The chapter is divided into two sections. The first section begins with an overview of Poole and Rosenthal’s analysis of the 95th Congress (1977–78) and revisits their conclusion that policy issue substance is inconsequential, an interpretation I show to be incorrect. The second section comprises case studies of five tier 1 sovereignty policies, each from a different Congress. The idea behind the case studies is to show how differences across preferences by issue area matter for studying...

  8. Chapter V Legislative Accomplishment and Policy Issue Substance
    (pp. 104-132)

    At the center of this book is an ambitious empirical effort to better understand the importance of policy substance to lawmaking. Such an understanding requires that we have appropriate direct measures of actual lawmaking. Unfortunately, less is known (empirically) than should be about statute-making in the United States because we lack pre–World War II data and also because we possess few data that disaggregate lawmaking by policy issue area (Brady and Cooper 1981). In an attempt to remedy these problems, this chapter conceptualizes and constructs a comprehensive lawmaking data set that provides measures of legislative accomplishment in general as...

  9. Chapter VI Explaining Lawmaking in the United States, 1877–1994
    (pp. 133-149)

    In this chapter, I examine variations in lawmaking by specific issue areas at the macro level.¹ Drawing on both the general and issue-specific measures of legislative accomplishment developed in chapter 5, this chapter empirically demonstrates that theoretically important determinants of lawmaking do not work the same way across policy issue areas. The findings highlight how easy it is to mischaracterize the policymaking process by not disaggregating policy into theoretically relevant categories. I also show in this chapter the importance of incorporating issue substance for constructing preference-based determinants of lawmaking. In other words, not taking policy issue substance into account in...

  10. Chapter VII At the Crossroads: Policy Issue Substance, Congress, and American Political Development
    (pp. 150-160)

    Neglecting the direct study of policy issue substance has unnecessarily weakened and stunted progress in the research programs of Congress and American political development. Of course, there are reasons why the role of policy substance in lawmaking has been omitted from these important areas of American politics. The barriers for Congress scholars primarily come from the past. Pivotal figures like Theodore Lowi and Aage Claussen demonstrated that deriving a theoretical or even empirical account of how lawmaking varies by issue area is no easy task. Other scholars, like Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, provided evidence that such work might be...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 161-170)
  12. Index
    (pp. 171-182)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-185)