Minority Rights, Majority Rule: Partisanship and the Development of Congress

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Cambridge University Press, Jun 13, 1997 - Political Science - 236 pages
Minority Rights, Majority Rule seeks to explain a phenomenon evident to most observers of the US Congress. In the House of Representatives, majority parties rule and minorities are seldom able to influence national policy making. In the Senate, minorities quite often call the shots, empowered by the filibuster to frustrate the majority. Why did the two chambers develop such distinctive legislative styles? Conventional wisdom suggests that differences in the size and workload of the House and Senate led the two chambers to develop very different rules of procedure. Sarah Binder offers an alternative, partisan theory to explain the creation and suppression of minority rights, showing that contests between partisan coalitions have throughout congressional history altered the distribution of procedural rights. Most importantly, new majorities inherit procedural choices made in the past. This institutional dynamic has fuelled the power of partisan majorities in the House but stopped them in their tracks in the Senate.
 

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Contents

The partisan basis of procedural choice
1
The evolving concepts of House and Senate minority rights
19
Procedural choice in the early Congress The case of the previous question
43
Allocating minority rights in the House 17891990
68
Institutionalizing party in the nineteenthcentury House
86
Stacking the partisan deck in the twentiethcentury House
132
Inherited rules and procedural choice in the Senate
167
Assessing the partisan theory
202
Summary of changes in minority rights
211
Measuring congressional workload
218
Measuring party behavior
220
Bibliography
225
Index
233
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