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Institutional Change, Party Discipline, and the House Democratic Caucus, 1911-19

Matthew N. Green
Legislative Studies Quarterly
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Nov., 2002), pp. 601-633
Published by: Washington University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3598661
Page Count: 33
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Institutional Change, Party Discipline, and the House Democratic Caucus, 1911-19
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Abstract

The House Democratic Caucus of 1911 to 1919 is a largely understudied institution in the literature on congressional party government, despite the claims of many scholars that the caucus functioned as a significant instrument of party government by binding legislators' floor votes. An analysis of roll-call votes, new data from the caucus journal, and contemporary accounts from the period indicate that these claims are largely exaggerated, although the caucus did, on occasion, improve floor discipline within the party. I find that intraparty homogeneity on crosscutting issues was related to caucus success. In addition, I argue that the adoption and use of the binding caucus can best be understood from the "multiple goals" viewpoint of congressional politics. These findings have important implications for understanding the development of party-based institutions in Congress.

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