Major: Political Science
Faculty Advisor: Professor Ross Baker
Policy Presentation Theme: Economic and Educational Cooperation and Conflict
Although debates about political polarization often revolve around high stakes bills and events, such as presidential impeachment, these instances are unrepresentative of the day-to-day work done by Congress. This paper explores the influence of political polarization on the Legislative Branch—not during the flashy moments that often garner media attention—but on congressional committees, where much of the legislative work within Congress actually occurs. The paper first recounts the existing literature on the functions of congressional committees, with specific emphasis on the effect that congressional committee leadership has on committee members and the committee itself. Given the influence of committee leaders, I hypothesize that the overall bipartisanship of a given committee will reflect the ideological separation of the committee chair and ranking minority member. Using the 115th Congress as a case study, this hypothesis is ultimately disproven, as even committees with large partisan disparities between the chair and ranking member have high rates of bipartisanship. Instead, the data collected confirms existing literature suggesting that a committee’s jurisdiction plays a significant role in the operations of that committee.