The Congressional EndgameInterchamber Bargaining and Compromise

The Congressional EndgameInterchamber Bargaining and Compromise

Josh M. Ryan

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226582061

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


In bicameral legislatures like Congress, the two chambers must reach agreement before a bill is enacted into law, a process that is often chaotic and contentious. In The Congressional End Game: Interchamber Bargaining and Compromise in Congress, Josh Ryan offers a coherent theory of how this process works and the types of policy outcomes produced. He shows that both conference committees and an alternative resolution venue, amendment trading, create policy that approximates the preferences of the more moderate chamber, though neither chamber receives exactly what it wants. Using comprehensive data on recent congressional legislation and an array of empirical tests, The Congressional Endgame explains how the chambers seek agreement, why failure at the resolution stage is so rare, and what types of legislation are likely to emerge from negotiations. The book finds that the characteristics of the winning coalition are critically important to which chamber "wins" after bargaining, with more moderate chambers receiving more of what they want. The results are especially relevant in the current age of party polarization and strong leadership, where divided party control of the House and Senate is common. These factors contribute to the public perception that the House and Senate are unable to compromise, and call into question the relevance and effectiveness of the bicameral system as designed by the Framers. Instead, The Congressional Endgame demonstrates interchamber negotiations serve their intended purpose well: they increase the odds of compromise while at the same time offering a powerful constraint on dramatic policy changes.