Minority-Party Power in the Senate and House of Representatives

Sean Gailmard and Jeffery A. Jenkins

in Why Not Parties?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780226534879
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226534947 | DOI:
Minority-Party Power in the Senate and House of Representatives

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This chapter explores the conventional wisdom that the minority is considerably stronger in the Senate. If the Senate's institutional arrangements do confer more power on the minority party as compared to the House's institutional arrangements, then standard measures of party power should reflect that reality. The chapter is organized as follows. It first discusses the data and measures used to explore minority-party power in the Senate. It then provides preliminary evidence of such power across three different legislative vehicles: Senate-originated bills, confirmation votes, and conference-committee reports. In doing so, it also makes explicit comparisons between minority-party power in the Senate and the House. Following this, it examines the determinants of minority-party power in the Senate for the three legislative vehicles in question and then compares these determinants to those associated with minority-party power in the House on similar legislative vehicles. There is some evidence that the Senate minority party possesses greater negative agenda control than the House minority party. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, the clearest formal source of the Senate minority's negative agenda control—the filibuster—appears not to be a significant instrument of power across a range of legislative vehicles.

Keywords: Senate minority power; majority party; Congress; party power; institutional arrangements; filibuster; agenda control

Chapter.  6756 words. 

Subjects: US Politics

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