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How Committee Staffers Clear the Runway for Legislative Action in Congress

How Committee Staffers Clear the Runway for Legislative Action in Congress

Chapter:
(p.112) 7 How Committee Staffers Clear the Runway for Legislative Action in Congress
Source:
Congress Overwhelmed
Author(s):
Casey BurgatCharles Hunt
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226702605.003.0007

Even in an era when much of the policymaking in Congress is governed by partisanship and party leadership, congressional committees continue to be engines for legislative activity. It is therefore crucial that we understand how to make committees as efficient and productive as possible. One facet of committee operation that has until now been overlooked in scholarship on congressional productivity is how staffers enable committees to fulfill their responsibilities as originators of thoughtful policy. In this study, we argue first that committee staffers are critical drivers of legislative productivity for the committees for which they work; and second, that certain staffers are better-positioned than others to make a legislative impact in committees. We use an original dataset of all House committees, detailed breakdowns of committee staff, and legislative output data from 2001-2017 to assess the extent to which increases in staff drive legislative productivity in committees, and which types of staffers are most consequential in this effort. Our findings suggest that policy staffers are crucial to the early legislative process of producing quality legislation out of committee, but that well-connected senior staffers are the driving force behind its successful passage out of the chamber.

Keywords:   congressional committees, congressional staff, legislative studies, legislative productivity, policy development, policy knowledge, seniority, congressional capacity, Congress

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