Committee Assignments in the U. S. Senate

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Legislative Studies Quarterly




Because fundamental control over the legislative process occurs not on the floor but in standing committees, and because assignment to important standing committees increases members' power to control the legislative agenda, congressional committee assignments are important in determining the political and electoral success of incumbents. Changing membership patterns of committees over time provide some clues on the importance of seats on the committees. Using data on committee membership for the U.S. Senate for congresses from World War II to the 103d Congress, we measure the relative value of seats on Senate committees. We assume that senators who transfer from one committee to another are increasing their political and electoral capital. Two different measures developed by Bullock and Sprague and Munger are employed to create an ordering of Senate committee membership prestige. Committee assignment allocation processes in the House of Representatives and the Senate produce similar, expected rankings of legislator preferences among seats on standing committees.


Legislative Studies Quarterly © 1996 Washington University