Center for Effective Lawmaking

Working Paper Series

Andrew J. Clarke, Craig Volden, and Alan E. Wiseman. 

Does joining an ideological caucus help or hurt the advancement of a lawmaker’s legislative agenda? We argue that joining a faction creates opportunities for policy advancement, but also potential backlash for party leaders. In combination, these considerations yield conditions under which lawmaking effectiveness of faction numbers is enhanced. We explore the relationship between caucus membership and a Representative’s legislative effectiveness by drawing on data on the membership of eight different ideological caucuses between 1995-2016 in the United States House of Representatives. The analysis supports our main hypothesis that minority-party lawmakers – but not those in the majority party – enhance their legislative effectiveness through faction membership. Moreover, contrary to conventional arguments, we find that lawmaking effectiveness is not a product of the pivotal ideological centrist position of factions or of faction size, apart from their party status. 

Craig Volden, Alan Wiseman, Jesse M. Crosson, and Geoffrey M. Lorenz. 

Members of Congress seek to allocate their scarce staff resources carefully, given their multiple, sometimes competing objectives. Using data on House members’ staff allocations from 1994 to 2013, we demonstrate that legislators advance more (and more significant) legislation when they retain a more experienced legislative staff. This benefit, however, accrues mostly committee chairs, whose institutional privileges allow them to leverage experienced staff, and to the most junior legislators whose inexperience can be best supplemented by experienced aides. Finally, we show that legislators do not generally benefit from large legislative staffs, but rather from having individual legislative staffers with high levels of experience. This finding suggests that a targeted strategy to retain the most experienced legislative staff in Congress may pay the greatest dividends in regards to lawmaking. 

Craig Volden and Alan E. Wiseman 

Journal of Politics 

Just like members of the House, U.S. Senators vary in how effective they are at lawmaking. We adapt the approach of Volden and Wiseman (2014) to create Legislative Effectiveness Scores for each Senator in each to the 93rd to the 113th Congresses (1973 – 2015). We use these scores to explore common claims about institutional differences in lawmaking between the House and the Senate. Our analysis offers strong support for the claim that the Senate is a more egalitarian and individualistic lawmaking body, in comparison to the relatively hierarchical institutional structure of the House. The Scores developed here offer scholars numerous opportunities to explore important lawmaking phenomena. 

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