Managing Plenary Time: The U.S. Congress in Comparative Context

Gary W. Cox and Mathew D. McCubbins

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199559947
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

 Managing Plenary Time: The U.S. Congress in Comparative Context

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This article discusses the management of plenary time by providing two theoretical possibilities that aim to elucidate on this topic. The first theory suggests that there is no open skies in the busy legislature, meaning the legislature do not guarantee a debate and vote on every bill that is reported from the committee. The second theory suggests that within the busy legislature, a majority government always has the ability to block bills from making significant claims on plenary time and reaching a final passage vote. The article also discusses how restrictions on access to the legislative agenda differ across the two chambers of the U.S. Congress, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. By examining the concept of managing plenary time, greater understanding of the nature of the congressional policymaking is garnered. In this article, the focus is on the fourteen national and twenty-two state assemblies in the U.S. Overall, there is a broad support for the hypotheses that busy legislatures limit access to legislative agenda to avoid plenary bottleneck. Moreover, while Congress approximates an ideal-type majoritarian regime, where the governing party have broad tools to block access to the agenda at every legislature process, the Senate in contrast operates in a similar manner with consensual bodies, where the government shares control over the legislative agenda with the opposition.

Keywords: plenary time; theoretical possibilities; managing plenary time; congressional policymaking; House of Representatives; Senate; legislative agenda; plenary bottleneck

Article.  9613 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Institutions

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