Fenno on the House Appropriations Committee's Success: (Or, How to Construct a Nash Equilibrium Without Really Trying)
8 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 2, 2015
Fenno's classic paper, "The Appropriations Committee as a Political System" (1962), focuses on the norms and institutions that are the foundations of House Appropriations Committee’s (HAC) success. The fundamental idea is that of committee integration, the degree to which committee members cooperate so as to capture the gains from cooperation. According to Fenno, cooperation requires procedures and norms for successful bargaining, first within committee then before the whole chamber. As Fenno reports, cooperation requires that committee members adhere to several norms: committee integration, the ability to make decisions without creating disorder; members specialize by subcommittee, focusing on matters before their subcommittee, not those matters before other subcommittees; committee members practice reciprocity, by which members not on a given subcommittee defer to and support the recommendations of that subcommittee; and members exhibit to subcommittee unity, the practice that, no matter what the disagreements in the subcommittee about the bill, all subcommittee members support the subcommittee’s recommendations in the full committee. This paper shows that Fenno constructs a Nash equilibrium of committee integration that explains why committee members had incentives to follow the HAC norms.
Keywords: Congress, organizations, congressional norms, agenda power, expertise, nash equilibrium
JEL Classification: D23, D71, D78, H50, L31, N42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation