Congressional Appropriations and the Electoral Connection
Posted: 7 Jul 2008
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.
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