Congressional committee transfer patterns : 1913-1945

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1976

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Abstract

This thesis examines committee transfer patterns in the United States House of Representatives from 1913 to 1945. In an attempt to replicate the research of Charles S. Bullock, III, three of his maior variables are employed in this analysis: (1) committee prestige, as measured by his prestige index; (2) seniority (both chamber and comit- tee); and (3) selected constituency characteristics related to the activities of four congressional committees—Agriculture, Banking and Currency, Interior, and Merchant Marine and Fisheries. Additionally this thesis examines committee transfers within the framework of a typology of committees based on members' goals, first suggested by Richard F. Fenno, Jr., and later expanded by Bullock. Throughout the analysis, particular attention is devoted to comparison with reassignment patterns in the modern House. Distinctive transfer behavior is noted for each of three groups based on party and region: Republicans, Southern Democrats, and Northern Democrats. Although the study finds general agreement among all members as to the attractiveness of many major committees, analysis of the three sets of congressmen discloses considerable differences in committee rank-orderings based on the index of prestige. Furthermore, the data reveal that the role of seniority as a prerequisite for promotions varied significantly across party groups. Generally, it is concluded that during this early period the seniority rule was less pervasive in its influence than it is today in the modern House. Contradictory evidence is found regarding the role of district characteristics in determining transfers to and from the four constituency service committees. In fact, the data indicate that these committees varied systematically in their ability to attract and hold members from relevant districts. When the standing committees are classified on the basis of member goals, Republicans are found to have been most attracted to committees which emphasized the shaping of good public policy. On the other hand, the data suggest that Southern Democrats were most likely to seek reassignment to committees which provided an opportunity for constituency service. When the transfer patterns of Northern Democrats are examined, analysis reveals a reassignment system relatively free of pre- requisities and based on a mixture of member motivations. By focusing on the variable influence of seniority, committee prestige, constituency characteristics, and member goals, this thesis provides clear evidence that committee reassignment patterns do vary across time. Nevertheless, it is also apparent from this study that the general contours of transfer behavior have remained remarkably stable throughout the twentieth century.

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