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The Return of Party Government in the US House of Representatives: Central Leadership – Committee Relations in the 104th Congress

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 1997

JOHN E. OWENS
Affiliation:
The Centre for the Study of Democracy, the University of Westminster

Abstract

Following the Republican victory in the 1994 mid-term elections, the balance of power in the US House of Representatives between committees and central party leader shifted decisively in favour of the latter. The central thrust of the procedural and personnel changes instituted under Newt Gingrich in 1994 and 1995 was to consolidate party government. This article reviews these important changes and analyses their impact on the legislative process. The return to party government is explained as a product of Gingrich's partisan vision of legislative organization, the destabilization of existing institutional relations as a consequence of the shift in partisan control, the unusual conditions of the 1994 elections, and the strong team spirit and high levels of Republican party support. The article speculates that a return to more autonomous, less party-dominated committee system is unlikely given strong Democratic support for robust centralized party leadership, important changes in Congress's policy agenda, high membership turnover, and the probable continuation of split-party government, but the potency of these centralizing forces will probably be mitigated by familiar decentralizing pressures in contemporary American politics.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1997 Cambridge University Press

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