First Advisor

Richard Clucas

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




United States Congress House -- Decision making, United States Congress House -- Rules and practice, United States Congress House -- Leadership



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 101 p.) : ill. (some col.)


The theoretical debate over the ability of parties and leaders in the House of Representatives to influence legislative decision-making is at the center of much of the literature on Congress. On the one hand, the Procedural Cartel perspective argues that while the tools used by the majority party leadership to assure the triumph of its preferences may vary depending on the institutional context, the basic ability of the leadership to impact legislative outcomes remains consistent. In contrast, Conditional Party Government (CPG) theory posits that any power the majority party and its leadership possesses over legislative decision-making is directly conditioned upon the amount of agreement within the majority party caucus as to collective goals, as well as the amount of ideological polarization that exists between the majority and minority parties. This thesis provides an original test of these two theoretical perspectives by evaluating their comparative ability to account for the proposal and passage of limitation riders on the House floor during the annual appropriations process since the 1980s. Limitation riders provide a good vehicle to test theories of congressional voting as they often have important policy implications in areas of significant controversy. In addition, the extent to which the individual members or legislative parties are able to successfully utilize limitation riders as a means of making substantive policy is indicative of larger patterns of committee or party domination of the floor process. After reviewing the relevant literature on congressional decision-making, this analysis proceeds to outline the theoretical predictions that the Procedural Cartel and CPG perspectives make regarding limitation riders. An original dataset comprised of over 800 limitation riders from the 97th through the 110th Congresses is analyzed both with respect to overall proposal and passage rates as well their party of origin. This study finds that while the CPG perspective is best able to account for what occurs during periods of low polarization and cohesion, Procedural Cartel provides the most accurate prediction of what occurs when polarization and cohesion are high. These findings suggest that, although these theories both have some ability to account for congressional decision-making on the House floor, both of these frameworks need to be revisited so that they can accurately account for what occurs during floor phase of the legislative process.


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Portland State University. Division of Political Science

Persistent Identifier