Fiona M. Wright
The Caucus Reelection Requirement and the Transformation
of House Committee Chairs, 1959–94
Legislative Studies Quarterly, XXV:469-80

Standing committee chairs in the House, as a group, are now dramatically more supportive of their party, its leaders, and their agenda than they were in the 1950s and 1960s. I present original data analysis that tests the two dominant explanations for this transformation—first, that it was the direct result of the Caucus reelection requirement for committee chairs and the dramatic removal of three incumbents under this new rule in 1975, and second, that it was simply an artifact of the general increases in partisanship across this same period. The results show that the critical transformation occurred immediately after the new rule was first used in 1975 but well in advance of the resurgent aggregate-level partisanship of the 1980s. This change is statistically significant, even after controlling for general levels of partisanship and other factors commonly expected to have affected the voting behavior of committee chairs between 1959 and 1994.


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