Legislative Organization Under Separate Powers

Posted: 20 Jun 2001

See all articles by David Epstein

David Epstein

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Sharyn O'Halloran

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs

Abstract

Existing theories of legislative organization attribute the strong committee system in the U.S. Congress to members' distributive, informational, or partisan needs. But legislators elsewhere share these same motivations, yet not all have chosen to organize themselves in a similar fashion. Therefore the strong committee system must derive to some extent from the larger constitutional context, including plurality winner elections, bicameralism, and our focus, the system of separate powers. In particular, we argue that committees established in part to oversee executive agencies will have preferences biased against those of the executive. Thus we should observe committees to be contrary outliers, acting as a counterweight to executive branch policy making. We find support for this prediction with data drawn from all standing committees from the 80th to 102nd Congresses. We also find that each of the seemingly incompatible theories of legislative organization predicts well patterns of committee composition in different issue areas.

Suggested Citation

Epstein, David Lester and O'Halloran, Sharyn, Legislative Organization Under Separate Powers. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Vol. 17, pp. 373-396, 2001, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=272484

David Lester Epstein (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

420 West 118th Street
719 International Affairs Building
New York, NY 10027
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(212) 854-7566 (Phone)
(212) 222-0598 (Fax)

Sharyn O'Halloran

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs ( email )

420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
(212) 854-3242 (Phone)
(212) 222-0598 (Fax)

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