Congressional Representation in an International Crisis: Position-Taking and Explanation on Syria Intervention
32 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 4, 2015
This research explores House members’ and senators’ decisions about announcing explaining positions on the president’s military intervention plans through the lens of responses to the 2013 Syria chemical-weapons crisis. Analysis of newly assembled data on members’ Syria positions shows that the parties differed sharply in their response; in addition, ideological extremism in the chamber and constituency opinion were both important predictors of members announcing opposition, while Senate membership, seniority, and centrism in the party predicted announcements of support. A supplementary analysis of the vote on arming Syrian rebels in 2014 reveals parallel patterns. Finally, members split in their approach to explaining their Syria positions, with opponents leaning heavily on arguments about the president and constituency opinion and supporters offering issue-focused explanations. Overall, the Syria case shows that choices over presidential military intervention paralleled the partisan and constituency-driven divisions in recent domestic politics, and it also sheds light on the strategic decisions about position explanation on a very salient issue.
Keywords: position taking, explanation, roll-call voting, constituency, Syria
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