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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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Partisan Motivations

Partisan Motivations

(p.69) Chapter Four Partisan Motivations
Congress in Reverse

Jordan M. Ragusa

Nathaniel A. Birkhead

University of Chicago Press

This chapter tests whether repeals are the product of long-term competition between the parties over the majority’s achievements. Unlike the problem solving chapter, chapter four finds substantial evidence that repeals are driven by lawmakers’ partisan motivations. First, repeals are more likely to occur during unified government, when one party controls both chambers and the White House. Second, repeals tend to occur when a majority is “ascendant,” having seized control after a long period out of power. And third, repeals are most likely in eras of high party conflict when the majority is ideologically cohesive. Given these findings, the willingness of the party to dedicate scarce agenda space to undoing their rival’s signature laws—instead of advancing new legislation—indicates the importance of repeals in the minds of party leaders. Moreover, bills passed on a party-line vote are more likely to be targeted for repeal in the future. As a whole, there is clear and consistent evidence that repeals are driven by partisan motivations.

Keywords:   parties, agenda control, ideological cohesion, party competition

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