Publication Date

4-15-2017

Advisor(s)

Richard Grossman, Logan Dancey

Major

Government, Economics (ECON)

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

This thesis explores the political and economic conditions under which members of Congress attempt to reduce their control over fiscal policymaking. To answer this question, I develop a classification system defining what constitutes an effort to reduce fiscal policymaking ability: an imposition of a debt limit or a spending ceiling, an implementation of spending rules, and/or an allocation or a sharing of fiscal policymaking powers typically reserved for Congress to other institutions. I use Congressional bill data ranging from the 93rd Session (1973-1975) to the 114th Session of Congress (2013-2015). In addition, I study various stages of the legislative process in order to more fully explain how political and economic incentives shift over time. Specifically, I use a negative binomial regression to study when bills focused on reining in Congress’s fiscal policymaking power receive more cosponsors. I also develop probit models to study the probability that a bill will pass at least one chamber of Congress. Finally, I use another probit model that measures the probability that a member of Congress either votes for or against two specific pieces of legislation that aim to limit Congress’s fiscal policymaking capabilities: HR.2015 in the 105th Session and S.365 in the 112th Session of Congress. The results demonstrate that ideology and partisan considerations may not actually dominate the fiscal policymaking process as strongly as typically thought, at least in terms of Congress’s attempts to restrict its powers in this domain. In addition, both political and economic factors vary in importance throughout the legislative process, with economic considerations often taking a backseat to political incentives. These results have major implications for how we view Congress and its role in fiscal policy formulation going forward.

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