Congressional Appropriations and the Electoral Connection

Posted: 7 Jul 2008

See all articles by D. Roderick Kiewiet

D. Roderick Kiewiet

California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University

Abstract

Congressional scholars have frequently reported dramatic shifts in the mood of Congress 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 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 appropriationsfor thirty-seven federal agaencies between fiscal yearsd 1948 and 1979 provided broad support for our hypotheses. First, Congress has been more generous in awarding appropriations during election years than 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 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 emperical support garned by our electoral connection model thus adds some much needed balance to the conventional incrementalist view of federal government spending.

Suggested Citation

Kiewiet, D. Roderick and McCubbins, Mathew D., Congressional Appropriations and the Electoral Connection. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1156420

D. Roderick Kiewiet (Contact Author)

California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences ( email )

Pasadena, CA 91125
United States
626 395-4032 (Phone)

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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