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Preferences of Lawmakers

Preferences of Lawmakers

(p.100) Chapter Five Preferences of Lawmakers
Congress in Reverse
Jordan M. RagusaNathaniel A. Birkhead
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines whether the policy preferences of lawmakers—apart from their party affiliation or problem solving motivations—explain when and why repeals occur. Overall, while there is some support for the role of preferences, partisan factors in the last chapter are still dominant. The first test is whether Goldwater’s conservative credo “My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them” extends to his ideological counterparts: are conservatives more active in repealing legislation? The analysis shows that while conservatives do indeed introduce a greater volume of repeal bills, those efforts are no more likely to succeed. Second, the chapter tests whether shifts in the preferences of Congress’s membership—that is, changes in the gridlock interval—explain repeals. Our data reveal that large ideological shifts in Congress indeed make repeals more likely. The third test is whether legislative drift—the gradual replacement of the enacting coalition—explains repealing activity. Chapter five finds that repeals are most likely in the first few Congresses after passage (when many members of the enacting coalition are still in Congress) and less likely decades after passage (when most have exited Congress), which is a result contrary to what many would expect.

Keywords:   policy preferences, polarization, conservative ideology, gridlock

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