American Government and Politics

Unification of Powers: When Effective Lawmakers Sponsor Presidential Proposals in Congress

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Abstract

While scholars have long noted presidential powers over congressional lawmaking arising through persuasion, veto bargaining, and public appeals, we argue that an important tool is missing from this list. Specifically, presidents who are strategic in their choices of early coalition partners in Congress – such as effective sponsors of administration bills – significantly enhance their chance of legislative success. We identify more than 1,400 executive branch proposals appearing as bills in Congress between 1989 and 2006. We examine which members of Congress sponsor these bills, finding strong evidence of disproportionate sponsorship by effective champions, such as majority-party members, committee and subcommittee chairs, lawmakers with proven effectiveness in the previous Congress, party leaders, and senior lawmakers, all else equal. Analyzing the fate of these proposals, we find that much of the success of the president’s agenda in Congress depends on these critical and strategic partnerships with effective congressional proponents.

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