Party Priorities, Agenda Control, and Bipartisan Cooperation in Congress

40 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 25 Aug 2011

Date Written: 2011


Although an increasingly large body of literature has examined rising party polarization in Congress, most of the empirical work has focused on ideological polarization between members. Less work has explicitly examined the resulting levels of bipartisan cooperation or the relationship between individual preferences and party strategy. This paper takes on both of these tasks, examining the joint roles of preferences and party strategy in the declining levels of bipartisanship in Congress. By breaking apart congressional behavior into cosponsorship coalitions and roll call votes, this paper suggests that although partisan behavior has increased substantially in roll call votes, the same is not true for bill cosponsorship coalitions. These divergent patterns can be reconciled by taking into consideration congressional agenda control and providing a theoretical perspective on party goals as they relate to partisanship and bipartisanship. As congressional parties sorted, partisan legislation became increasingly likely to face a roll call vote whereas bipartisan legislation became less likely to face a roll call vote.

Keywords: Congress, Polarization, Partisan, Bipartisan, Agenda Control, Party Strategy, Cosponsorship, Voting

Suggested Citation

Harbridge, Laurel, Party Priorities, Agenda Control, and Bipartisan Cooperation in Congress (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Laurel Harbridge (Contact Author)

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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