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Susan M Miller and L. Marvin Overby, "Discharge petitions and the conditional nature of agenda control in the U.S. House of Representatives," Party Politics, 20 (May 2014), 444-455. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol20/issue3/ ]

First paragraph:
While there is an emerging scholarly consensus that legislative parties do, in fact, have a significant impact on the behaviour of the U.S. Congress (Smith, 2007), there is considerable debate as to the best conceptualization of party influence. Cox and McCubbins (1993, 2005) argue that majority parties have cartel powers in the House of Representatives, invariant authority over much of the legislative agenda that gives them the ability to exercise considerable power regardless of political conditions in the chamber. While a party's positive powers to push any particular agenda item may ebb and flow, its ability to exercise negative agenda control by vetoing what measures come up for a vote is constant. In contrast, the conditional party government (CPG) perspective advocated by Aldrich, Rohde and colleagues (Aldrich, 1995; Aldrich and Rohde, 1997-1998, 2000a, b, 2001; Cooper and Brady, 1981; Rohde, 1991) argues that majority party influence is not based on a constant set of cartel powers, but is highly variant depending on the polarization of the parties in the chamber; during periods of greater intra-party unity and inter-party polarization, party leaders will have greater power to affect the behaviour of rank and file members.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Descriptive statistics of the discharge participation of bill sponsors and discharge initiators (1931-2006).
Figure 1. Percentage of co-sgners who signed the associated petition
Table 2. Discharge petition participation of bill sponsors and co-sponsors (1967-2006).
Figure 2. (unlabeled)
Figure 3 (unlabeled)

Last Paragraph:
These findings provide empirical support for our theoretical expectation that some manifestations of negative agenda control are conditional, and reinforce our contention that it is important to consider disparate indicators of the key theoretical concepts. As the primary indicator of negative agenda control used by Cox and McCubbins (2005), roll rates may not entirely capture the majority party's veto power (or lack thereof) over the agenda. Consideration of discharge participation further illuminates the majority party's ability to control the floor, and helps to clarify the extent of the majority party's negative agenda control over time. When putting Cox and McCubbins's assertion regarding the consistency of the majority party's veto power over the agenda to a hard test, we find that negative agenda control conforms more to the expectations of CPG. While these findings are strongly suggestive that CPG is more useful for understanding congressional partisan dynamics over time, they are not definitive. But they certainly imply that not all manifestations of negative agenda control are constant across Congresses, and this distinction enables more explicit expectations about negative agenda control. Cox and McCubbins find that roll rates on final passage votes and rule adoptions are relatively stable over time; however, there may be other forms, beyond discharge challenges, that are conditional. By clarifying this point, this study extends our understanding of the breadth of majority party legislative power and how it changes as the internal dynamics of institutional parties change

Last updated April 2014