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Emergence of Legislative Institutions: Standing Committees in the House and Senate, 1810-1825

Gerald Gamm and Kenneth Shepsle
Legislative Studies Quarterly
Vol. 14, No. 1 (Feb., 1989), pp. 39-66
Published by: Washington University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/440091
Page Count: 28
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Emergence of Legislative Institutions: Standing Committees in the House and Senate, 1810-1825
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Abstract

By the 1820s the federal government of the United States had begun to assume a form we would recognize today. In Washington the experiment in government under the Constitution was swiftly becoming enshrined in mature institutions, the most important of which was probably the Congress. Between 1810 and 1825 the two houses of the legislative branch underwent dramatic and lasting transformations in their organizational arrangements. In 1810 the House had a modest system of standing committees; the Senate had no such system at all. During the next 15 years the House steadily expanded its system, while the Senate produced one in a single fell swoop. By 1825 each chamber had a fully developed system of standing committees which have dominated its procedures to the present time. This paper documents these developments and seeks to account for them by explanations rational choice and organization theory.

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