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Separation of Powers and Legislative Organization
The President, the Senate, and Political Parties in the Making of House Rules

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  • Author: Gisela Sin, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Date Published: November 2014
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9781316057735

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About the Authors
  • This book examines how the constitutional requirements of the lawmaking process, combined with the factional divisions within parties, affect U.S. representatives' decisions about how to distribute power among themselves. The incorporation of the presidential, senatorial, and House factions in the analysis of House rule making marks an important departure from previous theories, which analyze the House as an institution that makes laws in isolation. This book argues that, by constitutional design, the success of the House in passing legislation is highly contingent on the actions of the Senate and the president; and therefore, also by constitutional design, House members must anticipate such actions when they design their rules. An examination of major rule changes from 1879 to 2013 finds that changes in the preferences of constitutional actors outside the House, as well as the political alignment of these political actors vis-à-vis House factions, are crucial for predicting the timing and directionality of rule changes.

    • The first book to include the Senate and the president as key actors in analyses of the House's internal organization
    • Predicts changes in the distribution of power in the House by incorporating House party factions and their interactions with the Senate and the president in analyses
    • Offers a novel explanation for rule adoption since 1879, plus an original analysis of the Speaker Cannon revolt in 1910
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    • Winner, 2015 Alan Rosenthal Prize, Legislative Studies Section, American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    "In Separation of Powers and Legislative Organization, Gisela Sin takes a simple, clear, and powerful idea - that one branch of government might well take the political circumstances in the other branches of government into account - and uses it to develop a rich theory of institutional reform. She applies this account, quite successfully, to a very large swath of the history of American political institutions. I was not alone in doubting that, as plausible as her idea is, it would really add to our understanding of major institutional reforms, such as the infamous ‘revolt’ against the House Speaker. In her showing that my intuition was wrong, she not only extends our empirical understanding but also shows the real power of science."
    John Aldrich, Duke University, North Carolina

    "While most congressional scholars (myself included) generally don’t look to the Constitution to explain chamber rules, after reading Professor Sin’s groundbreaking work, I am convinced. The amazing thing about her argument is that it is on the one hand obvious, but on the other almost completely overlooked by a generation of congressional scholars. This book will drive significant revisions to both theories of Congress and theories of legislative design more generally."
    William Bianco, Indiana University

    "The study of Congress is in desperate need of new ideas and new perspectives, and Gisela Sin offers a provocative and interesting one. She views the internal organization of the House as a bargain among a Speaker-aligned majority, a nonaligned majority faction, and the minority. [S]he shows how this bargain changes in response to changes in the Senate and the president - for example, by allocating more authority to extremists in order to extract concessions from the Senate. This perspective will resonate with contemporary observers of the Tea Party. [However], Sin shows it affords considerable leverage on the history of Congress. The fresh ideas, plus new primary data, a formal model, quantitative tests and qualitative case studies make this book an exemplar of what congressional research can be."
    Charles M. Cameron, Princeton University, New Jersey

    "In a book of rare breadth, Gisela Sin completes the package of legislative organization studies. Theoretically and historically, she places legislative rules in institutional context. She constructs valuable new data sources and applies simple yet powerful analytical techniques to reveal that when remaking itself, America’s legislature has the executive in mind."
    Daniel Carpenter, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    "Gisela Sin is poised to make a strong contribution to our understanding of House rules changes in a separation-of-powers system of government. Her creative and ambitious project expands the set of actors involved in the decision and focuses on the concentrated power of subgroups within the majority and minority parties. This is a key element in understanding House behavior that political science scholarship does not take into account as much as it ought to."
    Wendy J. Schiller, Brown University, Rhode Island

    "In this highly original book, Gisela Sin argues that considerations of bargaining influence vis-à-vis the Senate and Executive shape rules choices within the House of Representatives. It is an important departure from existing chamber-centric accounts of historical procedural developments, and a much needed foray into the strategic implications of bicameralism."
    John D. Wilkerson, University of Washington

    "This is a groundbreaking book with far-reaching implications for congressional scholarship. Professor Sin’s carefully theorized and empirically supported argument demonstrates that researchers must think more broadly about House rules and, in turn, about congressional party power. Moreover, the author persuasively shows that we have much to gain by taking seriously the long-standing interplay of intraparty factions in Congress. And the payoff for this rethinking is quite clear: Professor Sin sheds new light on major episodes in House history, including the 1910 revolt and the 1961 Rules Committee expansion."
    Scott R. Meinke, Congress and the Presidency

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2014
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9781316057735
    • contains: 16 b/w illus. 11 tables
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    1. A constitutional perspective on House organization
    2. Constitutional actors and intraparty groups
    3. A constitutional theory of House organization
    4. Timing of House organizational changes
    5. The Senate and White House shadows: centralization and decentralization of the rule of the US House, 1879–2013
    6. New rules for an old Speaker: revisiting the 1910 revolt against Speaker Cannon
    7. Conclusion
    Appendix A. Constitutional actors, partisanship, and House majority intraparty groups
    Appendix B. Theoretical proof
    Appendix C. List of changes in the rules and procedures of the House
    Appendix D. The universe of rules-and-procedures coding of the William H. Taft and Calvin Coolidge presidencies
    Appendix E. Directionality of rules and procedures
    Appendix F. Senate's ideal point.

  • Author

    Gisela Sin, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    Gisela Sin is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. A Fulbright scholar who received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan, she studies political institutions, emphasizing the strategic elements of separation of powers. She is co-author of a book on Argentinean institutions, Congreso, Presidencia, y Justicia en Argentina (with Guillermo N. Molinelli and Valeria N. Palanza, 1999), and her other work has appeared in such journals as Comparative Political Studies, the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, and Public Choice. She has given presentations at universities and conferences in the United States, Latin America, and Europe.


    • Winner, 2015 Alan Rosenthal Prize, Legislative Studies Section, American Political Science Association

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