Legislation and Perception: Changes in Congressional Bills
by Nicholas Howard, Auburn University at Montgomery
Legislators meet in an ever-changing world. Rules changes, shifts in norms of behavior, and new pressures on members alter how legislators behave and who gets credit for outcomes. In this article, Nicholas Howard discusses changes in Congressional lawmaking and how these changes complicate scholar’s understanding of who gets credit for success, effectiveness, and efficiency. Changes in legislative procedures effect whose efforts are included in legislation and who receives credit for developing particular bills.
The article describes how the actions Members of Congress take are incentivized by the Rules they are placed under and the pressures exerted upon them. For modern legislators this means participating in less specialized areas, submitting more amendments, and working with other members to insert their proposals into broader legislation. Using several examples from experience on Capitol Hill and recent marquee legislation, Howard discusses how changes in legislator behavior complicate the attribution of success to members. Committee meetings are highly varied, members work inside larger packages, and proposals must survive the Ping-Pong process for moving legislation to the president’s desk. This article discusses complications in scholars’ understanding of effective and efficient legislating, and how students of the field may observe modern politics.