Pam McCann research update: House & Senate negotiations and policy choice

Pamela Clouser McCann, Ph.D., assistant professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy discussed updates to her research on House and Senate negotiations and policy choice.

Legislators encode their policy choices in the text of bills they propose, debate, and pass. This text, and the policy choices within it, reflect the preferences of the members whose support is required to pass a bill. Since both the House and the Senate must pass the same bill before it is presented to the president for possible signing, the textual choices made and the shared elements of House versus Senate bills provide us with a window to the policy conflict and compromise of a bicameral setting.

  • We characterize the nature of the bargains chambers strike in order to pass important legislation and consider the degree to which chambers diverge on initial offers as well as the conditions under which one chamber influences the final content of laws more so than the other chamber.
  • We rely on a novel dataset of the shared language in Senate and House bills and final enactments using existing plagiarism software.
  • We compare measures of policy consensus regions (the overlap between House and Senate language) and the degree to which a final law is uniquely a product of Senate choices or House choices.