Maintaining Congressional Committees: Sources of Member Support
Legislative Studies Quarterly XXIII:197-218

Within the U.S. House of Representatives, standing committee recommendations are usually accepted by the full chamber. Although considerable attention has been paid to the extent that committee recommendations are ratified by the full chamber, relatively little research has addressed the sources of committee success. Committees usually win on the floor, but it is unclear why members of Congress support committee recommendations, or how we should account for variation in such support. One explanation for committee success is that members derive power from the committee system, and thus are reluctant to challenge committee recommendations. A second explanation is that committees themselves are partisan institutions, and thus members support committee recommendations out of partisan loyalty. A third explanation is that members support committees because committees recommend policies that are consistent with members' policy preferences. Unlike previous studies that have relied primarily on single-vote case studies, I use roll-call data from the 98th through the 100th Congresses (1983-88) to construct an aggregate measure of committee support and to test these three competing explanations of the sources of committee support. I conclude that with few exceptions, policy and partisan motivations have a stronger influence on member support for committee recommendations than do incentives stemming from members' institutional positions.

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