Pivots or Partisans? Proposal-Making Strategy and Status Quo Selection in Congress
Lawmakers vary considerably in how effectively they advance their priorities through Congress. However, the actual proposal-writing strategies undergirding these differences have remained largely unexplored, due to measurement and methodological difficulties. These obstacles have included prohibitively small sample sizes, costly data requirements, and strong theoretical assumptions. In this Center for Effective Lawmaking (CEL) working paper, political scientists Jesse Crosson (CEL Faculty Affiliate), Alexander Furnas, and Geoffrey Lorenz (CEL Faculty Affiliate) address these obstacles and analyze the proposal strategies of effective lawmakers directly, using original measures of the spatial locations of congressional bill proposals and associated status quos generated by jointly scaling cosponsorship, roll-call, and interest group position-taking data for 1,007 bills from the 110th through 114th Congresses. Because interest groups take positions on bills before they receive votes, at the time of introduction, the co-authors’ measures cover many bills that die in committee, permitting comparisons between successful and unsuccessful bills. They demonstrate that legislative advancement favors moderate proposals over partisan ones, and that effective lawmakers are those who make proposals closer to the median even at the expense of their preferred policy.