POLS 508 Legislative Process, Fall 2007


Barbara Burrell, Zulauf 115



Office hours:  Tuesdays 3:30-5:00 PM, Wednesdays 1-3 PM and by appointment




This seminar is designed to introduce students to the major theoretical and research approaches to the study of the United States Congress. The major concepts we will study are elections, representation and lawmaking. Major questions center on who runs and serves in the Congress and the role of leadership. What is the nature of elections to national office and how have they changed over time and to what effect? Other central questions center on structure of the institution and how it affects policy making and representation. We also examine Congressional decision making and the role Congress plays in formulating public policy in the U.S. political system. 


Required Books


Gary Jacobson, The Politics Of Congressional Elections, 6th Edition , 2004

Debra Dodson, The Impact of Women in Congress, Oxford University Press

Barbara Sinclair, Party Wars, University of Oklahoma Press, 2006

Lawrence C. Dodd and Bruce I. Oppenheimer, Congress Reconsidered, 8th edition. CQ Press

Hanna Pitkin, The Concept of Representation, University of California Press

James Sterling Young, The Washington Community, 1800-1828


APSR – American Political Science Review

AJPS – American Journal of Political Science

LSQ – Legislative Studies quarterly

JOP – Journal of Politics




August 28 – Introduction


September 4: Creating a Congress

Readings: Article 1 of the Constitution

Federalist Papers,  #10, 52-66 (available online)

Anti-Federalist Perspective, Brutus, To the Citizens of the State of New York (Available on Blackboard, Course Documents)

Elaine K. Swift and David Brady, 1991. “Out of the Past: Theoretical and Methodological Contributions of Congressional History.” PS, pp. 61-64. (Jstor)

  Brian Frederick, “The People’s Perspective on the Size of the People’s House.” Forthcoming in PS (available on Blackboard in Course Documents)


September 11 –  The Historical Development and Institutionalization of Congress

James Sterling Young, The Washington Community, 1800-1828, Chapters 1-7

Nelson Polsby. 1968. “The Institutionalization of the U.S. House of Representatives,” APSR,   144-168. (JStor)

Joseph Cooper and Cheryl Young. 1989. “Bill Introduction in the 19th Century: A Study in Institutional Change,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 14: 67-105. (JStor)

Eric Lawrence, Forest Maltzman and Paul Wahlbeck. 2001. "The Politics of Speaker Cannon's Committee Assignments," APSR: 551-562. (JStor)

John Aldrich and Ruth Grant, 1993. “The Anti-Federalists, the First Congress and the First Political Parties.” JOP 55,2: 295-326 (JStor)


September 18, Political Ambition

Joseph Schlesinger. 1985. “The New American Political Party.” APSR  79, 4 (December): 1152-1169

Cherie D. Maestas, Sarah Fulton, L. Sandy Maisel, and Walter Stone, 2006. “When to Risk It? Institutions, Ambitions, and the Decision to Run for the U.S House.”  APSR, 100, 2 (May): 195- 208  (Available on Blackboard)

Richard Fox and Jennifer Lawless. 2004.  Entering the Arena? Gender and the Decision to Run for Office.”  AJPS  48, 2 (April): 264-280  (Jstor)

Gordon Black. 1972. “A Theory of Political Ambition: Career Choices and the Role of Structural Incentives.” APSR 66, 1: 144-59.

Gary Jacobson. 1989. “Strategic Politicians and the Dynamics of U.S. House Elections, 1946-1986.” APSR 83 (September): 773-93.  

Samuel Kernell, "Toward Understanding 19th Century Congressional Careers: Ambition, Competition, and Rotation," APSR  (1977): 669-693.


September 25 –  Congressional Elections: Candidates

Jacobson, The Politics of Congressional Elections, chapters 1-4

Congress Reconsidered, Chapters  5, 7 (Herrnson, Fiorina)

David Mayhew. 1974. “Congressional Elections: the Case of the Vanishing Marginals.” Polity

6, 3 (Spring), 295-317.


October 2 -  Congressional Elections: Voters

Jacobson, The Politics of Congressional Elections, chapters 5-8

Congress Reconsidered, 4, 6 (Erikson and Wright, Oppenheimer)


October 9- The Congressional Committee System

Congress Reconsidered : Chapters 11, 12  (Aldrich and Rohde , Gordon)

Keith Krehbiel, “Are Congressional Committees Composed of Preference Outliers?” APSR (1990):    149-164.

Tim Groseclose, "Testing Committee Composition Hypotheses for the U.S. Congress," JOP  (1994):  440-458.

Scott Adler and  John Lapinski, “Demand Side Theory and Congressional Committee Composition: A Constituency Characteristics Approach,” AJPS (1997): 895-918.

David King. 1994. “The Nature of Congressional Committee Jurisdictions, APSR (March) 48-62


October 16  – Parties in Congress

Baarbara Sinclair, Party Wars

Congress Reconsidered: Chapters 2, 8 (Dodd and Oppenheimer, Smith and Gamm)


October 23 - Congressional Leadership

Congress Reconsidered: Chapters   9, 10  (Schickler and Pearson, Evans and Lipinski))

Schickler, "Institutional Change in the House of Representatives, 1867-1998: A Test of Partisan and Ideological Power Balance Models," APSR (2000): 269-288.

Cooper and Brady, “Institutional Context and Leadership Style: The House from Cannon

to Rayburn,” APSR 75 (1981): 411-425.


October 30 – Dimensions of Representation

Hanna Pitkin, The Concept of Representation, chapters 4-7, pp 60-167

Congress Reconsidered, Chapters 3,17 (Hibbing and Larimer,  Haynie)

Warren Miller and Donald Stokes. 1963. “Constituency Influence in Congress.” APSR

(March) 745-57

Richard Fenno, U.S. Members in Their Constituencies, An Exploration.” APSR 71 (1977): 883-917.

Jane Mansbridge, 2003. “Rethinking Representation.” APSR, 97, 4 (November): 51-528.


November 7 – Voting in the House and Senate

David Jones. 2003. “Position Taking and Position Avoidance in the U.S. Senate.” JOP 65: 851-863 (JStor)

Daniel Lipinski. 2001. The Effect of Messages Communicated by Members of Congress: The Impact of Publicizing Votes, LSQ 26, 1 (February), 81-100. (Jstor)

David C. King and Richard J. Zeckhauser. 2003. “Congressional Vote Options.” LSQ, (August): 387-411.  (Blackboard)

Covington, Cary R. and Andrew A. Bargen, 2004.  "Comparing Floor-Dominated and Party-

Dominated Explanations of Policy Change in the House of Representatives."  JOP 66: 1069-1088. (JStor)

Talbert, Jeffery C. and Matthew Potoski.  2002.  "Setting the Legislative Agenda: The Dimensional Structure of Bill Cosponsoring and Floor Voting."  JOP 64: 864-891. (Jstor)


November 13  Congress and the Presidency

Congress Reconsiderd, Chapter 16 (Cooper)

Johnson, Timothy R. and Jason M. Roberts, 2004.  "Presidential Capital and the Supreme Court Confirmation Process."  JOP 66: 663-683.

Auerswald, David and Forrest Malztman, 2003.  "Policymaking Through Advice and Consent:

  Treaty Consideration by the United States Senate."  JOP 65: 1097-1110.

Bond, Jon R., Richard Fleisher, and B. Dan Wood.  2003.  "The Marginal and Time-Varying Effect  of Public Approval on Presidential Success in Congress."  JOP 65: 92-110.  (JStor)

Canes-Wrone, Brandice and Scott de Marchi.  2002.  "Presidential Approval and Legislative Success."  JOP 64:  491-509. (JStor)


November 20 Women as Members of Congress

Readings: Debra Dodson, The Impact of Women in Congress


November 27 –   Congress and Policy Making

Readings: Congress Reconsidered, chapters 13, 4, 15

Andrew D. Martin. “Congressional Decision Making and the Separation of Powers.” APSR  95,2 (June): 361-78

John Coleman. 1999. “Unified Government, Divided Government, and Party Responsiveness.”
APSR  93, 4 (December): 821-835



December 4 –  Reflections on Congress and Discussion of Research Papers

Congress Reconsidered, Chapter 18


Course Requirements


1.  Reaction Papers


Students will be required to write ten 1-2 page reaction papers that respond to the readings for that week. These papers should be emailed to me and posted on the Discussion Board of Blackboard so that other members of the class will be able to read and reflect on them by noon on Monday. These papers should center on reflection on the readings. They are not to be summaries of the readings but ideas and critiques that you have developed from your reflection on the material. You should set up questions for class discussion.  My evaluation will focus on the number and quality of original ideas that you bring to a particular week’s readings. See reaction paper Dos and Don’ts at the end of the syllabus.


Course Grade: Papers are worth 35 percent of course grade


2. Class Participation.


Class participation is centrally important. First, students are responsible for reading the other students’ reaction papers so that you come to class having thought about them and are prepared to engage in discussion about your colleagues ideas. This class will be conducted in a seminar format. All required readings for a particular week are to be completed by everyone before arriving in class, and each member of the class should be prepared to summarize, react to, and draw from the readings in depth. 


In general, relevant in-class participation will be evaluated according to the following scale with plus and minus grades being possible.


A=regular and thoughtful participation

B=occasional and thoughtful participation

C=regular attendance, but little or no participation


Students who miss more than two classes will fail the class, although students are not expected to miss any classes barring a family emergency or major illness.


Course Grade: Class participation is worth 25 percent of course grade


3. Research project.


 Early in the semester, each student should choose a research project for which two papers will be written.  The first paper, worth 20% of your grade and due on October 28th, will be a literature review.  The literature review should take the form of a progressive development in a particular area of study regarding the legislative process and democracy. You should consider theoretical perspectives, hypotheses and research designs. What the major arguments prominent authors have made on this subject. This review should be posted on Discussion Board in Blackboard so that other students will be able to develop a major annotated reading list for a comprehensive study of Congress. The second paper, which should build logically upon the first, is worth 20% of your grade.  It may take the form of a research design or a final report with actual findings, depending on the nature of the project and the availability of data.  The second paper (which will incorporate the literature review) should be approximately 15-20 pages in length (typed and double-spaced) and written in a standard academic format (preferably the APA style which appears in most of our journals).  You are encouraged to approach this assignment from the point of view of preparing a paper that might, after appropriate revision and/or data collection and analysis, be presented at a professional conference and ultimately submitted for review by an academic journal. The final paper is due on November 27th.  The last two weeks of class we will assess the current state of Congressional research built on your research papers.  



Reaction Paper Dos and Don’ts (borrowed from Elizabeth Theiss-Morse)




Focus on one main idea.

Draw on and try to integrate all of the readings for the week.

Make connections to previous readings, where appropriate.

Develop an argument.

Push your argument, try to answer the tough questions.

Offer compelling criticism.

Offer ideas for future research.

Pursue an argument you especially liked.

Analyze the methods used, offer idea(s) for better or expanded methods.


Do Not



Just give your opinion on a topic

Pick a bunch of little points to address

Critique the writing style.

Tell me and article or book is and/or boring and/or difficult

Ignore the readings or only look at a small portion of the readings

Ignore relevant parts of the readings.

State the obvious.

Redefine terms, unless you justify.