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Congress in ReverseRepeals from Reconstruction to the Present$
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Jordan M. Ragusa and Nathaniel A. Birkhead

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226717333

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226717500.001.0001

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Significant Repeals, Killer Congresses, and Doomed Statutes

Significant Repeals, Killer Congresses, and Doomed Statutes

(p.25) Chapter Two Significant Repeals, Killer Congresses, and Doomed Statutes
Congress in Reverse

Jordan M. Ragusa

Nathaniel A. Birkhead

University of Chicago Press

This chapter presents a new measure of a repeal’s significance, which helps us identify the most significant repeals in American history and compare them across time. For illustrative purposes, it describes three repeals in the dataset: Glass-Steagall (1933-1999), the National Maximum Speed Law (1974-1995), and the Tenure of Office Act (1867-1887). Chapter two then examines the occurrence of “doomed” statutes and “killer” Congresses. A central finding is that parties play an important role in predicting when and why repeals occur, as “doomed” statutes (those that ultimately get repealed) are more likely to be passed under unified government, and that “killer” Congresses (those that are most likely to repeal legislation) are those where partisan conflict is common and the majority is recently ascendant. Importantly, the chapter also shows that a Congress’s likelihood of passing a doomed statute is not a function of its overall legislative productivity—more productive Congresses are no more likely to have repealed statutes than others.

Keywords:   repeal significance, legislative productivity, Glass-Steagall, Tenure of Office Act, National Maximum Speed Law

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