Testing an Informational Theory of Legislation: Evidence from the U.S. House of Representatives

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2012-10-09

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Abstract

Using data on roll calls from the U.S. House of Representatives, this paper finds empirical support for informational theories of legislative decision-making. Consistent with the theoretical prediction, the bias of the committee a bill gets assigned to is strongly positively associated with the bias of its sponsor, and unbiased sponsors in expectation get assigned to roughly unbiased committees. Moreover, we find a negative relationship between the sponsor's absolute bias and the probability that the legislation is processed by closed rule. Despite these empirical regularities, there is a large variation in the data, suggesting that considerations other than informational efficiency are also important in committee appointments and procedural rule selection. As far as we know, our paper is the first one that provides quantitative empirical support for a theory of cheap talk versus delegation, in any setting.

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