Congressional caucuses in national policy making


Congressional caucuses in national policy making

Susan Webb Hammond

Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998

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Includes bibliographical references and index



This work describes and explains the role, activities and influence of the groups known on Capitol Hill as "caucuses". Defined as voluntary groups of members of Congress with shared interests, but which stand outside the formal legislative and policy making structure, causcuses are prime players in influencing policy and setting the legislative agenda. Over the past five congresses, Hammond counts the formation of more than 250 causcuses, varying widely in size and membership. They can be organized into five catagories: party affiliation; personal interest national constituency; regional issues; state interests; and district industrial interests. Within the caucuses, members share information; co-ordinate legislative plans, seeks ways to influence colleagues, and even strategize on agenda setting. While the caucuses can contribute to greater co-ordination, efficiency, and even effective policy planning, Hammond finds that they may also tend to fragment the Congressional system, because they serve as alternative sources of information, communication, and voting coalitions outside the formal structure of congress. In fact they have survived the Republican-controlled Congress's attempt to eliminate them by doing away with legislative service organizations.

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