Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Bawn. 1998. Congressional party leadership: Utilitarian versus majoritarian incentives. LSQ.
In this article Bawn provides a theory of how the majority party leadership will make decisions about procedures. She begins from two assumptions:
The party leader makes procedural decisions in order to achieve these goals. The effects of the reelection goal are idiosyncratic, so we leave it aside and focus on party maintenance and reselection, which have systematic effects.
A party-oriented leader is one who maximizes the party's expected number of seats after the next election. The party-oriented leader's procedural decisions will be based on the intensity of impact on members' reelection chances, not simply the number of members helped or hurt. So a leader might make a procedural decision that allows a farm subsidy bill to pass even if there is only a minority in the party that will benefit from it (the impact will be intensely beneficial for the party minority and mildly detrimental for the party majority). The leader does not just count up how many party members are for or against a bill and then side with the majority. Thus, the party leader is utilitarian (seeking the greatest benefit for the greatest number), not majoritarian.
Intuitively we would expect that the reselection goal would induce leaders to always make procedural decisions that are supported by the majority of his/her party. Failing to do so might expose the party leader to challenges by rivals.
However, the reselection imperative does not lead to majority decisions on all procedural questions, for several reasons:
When the party maintenance and reselection goals conflict, the party leader will weigh the two. The leader's decision will maximize party maintenance as long as:
Another way to think about this is that when the majority party is divided (a minority of members support the bill and a majority do not), the party leadership will side with the minority if the bill's impact will have concentrated benefits for the party minority and minor, diffuse costs for the majority members. Doing so will help get the minority members reelected without seriously damaging the majority's reelection chances. That will keep the majority party in power; the members will be happy; and they will reselect the party leaders
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