Congressional Party Leadership: Utilitarian versus Majoritarian Incentives
Legislative Studies Quarterly XXIII:219-43

By making procedural decisions about how individual bills are referred, scheduled, subjected to amendments, and sent to conference, majority party leaders exert important influence on legislative outcomes. In this paper, I use a sequence of formal models to analyze regularities in the preferences of party leaders, regularities that determine how procedural decisions are made. I find that the goal of maintaining party strength causes leaders to make procedural decisions based on the preference intensity of the rank and file. Leaders will make procedural decisions in ways that benefit intense minorities within the party whenever the party minority's stake in the bill is greater than that of the less-intense party majority. The desire to keep a leadership position, however, creates an incentive to please a party majority. I show, however, that this majoritarian incentive will generally have only limited influence on procedural decisions. Its impact is limited in particular by shifting coalitions within the majority party and by backbenchers' preferences for party maintenance.

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