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A Theory of Competitive Partisan Lawmaking*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2015


Motivated by polar extremes of monopartisanship and nonpartisanship in existing literature on parties in legislatures, we introduce and analyze a more moderate theory of competitive partisan lawmaking. The distinguishing feature of competitive partisanship is that the minority party, although disadvantaged, has some guaranteed opportunities to influence lawmaking. Our analytic framework focuses on two dimensions of parties in legislatures: agenda-based competition, operationalized as a minority party right to make an amendment to the majority party’s proposal, and resource-based competition, characterized as the ability of both party leaders to use transferable resources when building winning or blocking coalitions. Building on the canonical model, we find that giving voice to the minority party in either one of these ways alone results in outcomes that, on the whole, are less lopsided and more moderate than those predicted by the existing monopartisan and nonpartisan theories.

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© The European Political Science Association 2015 

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Keith Krehbiel is the Edward B. Rust Professor of Political Science at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Knight Management Center, 655 Knight Way, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-7298 (email: Adam Meirowitz is the John Work Garrett Professor of Politics at Princeton University, 040 Corwin Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544-1012 (email: Alan E. Wiseman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Law at Vanderbilt University, PMB 0505, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37203-5721 (email: An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the 2012 Annual Meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, and an earlier version titled “Bipartisan Lawmaking” was presented at the 2011 Annual Meetings of the American Political Science Association in Seattle, Washington. The authors thank Larry Bartels, Gary Cox, Daniel Diermeier, Larry Evans, Nick Eubank, John Geer, Laurel Harbridge, Molly Jackman, Jesse Richman, Eric Schickler, Ken Shepsle, Ken Shotts, Erik Snowberg, Razvan Vlaicu and seminar participants at Caltech, the Harris School, the University of Warwick, and Vanderbilt University, for helpful comments. In addition Jidong Chen provided excellent assistance. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit


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