Legislative shirking in the pre-Twentieth Amendment era: Presidential influence, party power, and Lame-Duck sessions of congress, 1877-1933

Jeffery A. Jenkins, Timothy P. Nokken

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

In 1933, the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted. Otherwise known as the Lame Duck Amendment, it reorganized the congressional terms of office and dates of annual convening, eliminating the short (or lame-duck) session that had existed up to that time. The amendment was the brainchild of Sen. George W. Norris (R-NE), who argued that lame-duck sessions posed a grave threat to democratic accountability and responsiveness, as they convened after the elections to the next Congress and thus were populated in part by members who were retiring or had lost their reelection bids. As a result, according to Norris, the potential for an agency problem in representation was great in lame-duck sessions. Using the literature on legislative shirkingespecially the subliterature on last-term effectsas our theoretical backdrop, we investigate Norris's arguments in detail, examining whether his concerns regarding lame-duck sessions were justified. Using a variety of data and a number of tests, we find little systematic evidence to suggest that exiting members altered their behavior significantly (i.e., shirked) in their last terms in office. In short, the concerns that Norris expressed, such as excessive presidential influence in the legislative process and increased majority-party manipulation of the legislative agenda, were not in fact major problems in lame-duck sessions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-140
Number of pages30
JournalStudies in American Political Development
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

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