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Buying Negative Agenda Control in the U.S. House


  • An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Toronto; the 2010 Research Design for Causal Inference Workshop, Northwestern University Law School; and in American Politics workshops at the University of Colorado, the University of Kansas, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina, and Yale University. We thank Gary Jacobson and Keith Poole for providing data, and Scott Adler, Chris Berry, Jamie Carson, Gary Cox, Mike Crespin, Nick Eubank, Larry Evans, Ben Farrer, Jean-François Godbout, Keith Krehbiel, John Lapinski, Mathew McCubbins, Marc Meredith, William Minozzi, Jason Roberts, Jessica Trounstine, Nick Weller, and other workshop participants for their many thoughtful suggestions. Jenkins thanks the Bankard Fund for Political Economy at the University of Virginia for a grant in support of this project. We also thank Ben Goodhue, Randall Collett, and Kyle Terry for excellent research assistance. Data and replication files can be found at

  • For more on negative agenda control (generally) and the collective action problems inherent in majority-party control, see Gailmard and Jenkins (2007) and Patty (2008).

Jeffery A. Jenkins is Associate Professor, Department of Politics, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400787, Charlottesville, VA 22904 ( Nathan W. Monroe is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Merced, 5200 N. Lake Rd., Merced, CA 95343 (


We explore the foundations of the legislative party cartel, as theorized by Cox and McCubbins (1993, 2005), to determine how majority-party moderates who suffer net policy losses from the majority leadership's use of negative agenda control are kept from defecting from the cartel arrangement. First, we identify formally the group of majority-party members who are net policy losers. We find that those members occupying the initial 30% of the space within the majority-party blockout zone—that space closest to the floor median—are hurt on a pure policy basis by the cartel arrangement. Second, we find that members in this “30% zone” are rewarded disproportionately by majority-party leaders (relative to members in other intervals on the same side of the floor median) via side payments in the form of campaign contributions. In addition, majority-party members within the 30% zone receive side payments commensurate with their particular policy loss.