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Congressional Appropriations and the Electoral Connection

D. Roderick Kiewiet and Mathew D. McCubbins
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 47, No. 1 (Feb., 1985), pp. 59-82
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2131066
Page Count: 24
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Congressional Appropriations and the Electoral Connection
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Abstract

Congressional scholars have frequently reported dramatic shifts in the mood of Congress toward federal spending. In seeking to explain these fluctuations in congressional moods, we develop and estimate an "electoral connection" model of the congressional appropriations process. In this model appropriations decisions are seen to be the product of the responses of reelection-seeking members of Congress to the key political and economic variables in their environment. Analyses of appropriations for thirty-seven federal agencies between fiscal years 1948 and 1979 provided broad support for our hypotheses. First, Congress has been more generous in awarding appropriations during election years than during nonelection years. Appropriations are also influenced by prevailing economic conditions. Higher unemployment leads to higher levels of appropriations, especially for public works agencies. Conversely, Congress has responded to high rates of inflation by holding down appropriations. And as in other areas of public policy, parties matter: the larger the percentage of Democrats in the House of Representatives, the more funds agencies were appropriated. The strong empirical support garnered by our electoral connection model thus adds some much needed balance to the conventional incrementalist view of federal government spending.

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