Majority Party Power and Procedural Motions in the U.S. Senate

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Abstract

While the metaphor of House parties as cartels is widely accepted, its application to the Senate is difficult as the majority party lacks the power to unilaterally manipulate rules and pass legislation. Nevertheless, several scholars have argued that the Senate majority party is able to employ nondebatable motions to table to exclude unwanted amendments with procedural rather than substantive votes. Does the motion to table yield negative agenda control or special party influence? Using an analysis of individual Senators' behavior on thousands of votes and an assessment of interest group scores, we find that motions to table do not elicit higher party influence or provide much political cover. A desire to speed up the legislative process, rather than to insulate members from electoral scrutiny, seems to motivate the use of motions to table.

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