Bill introduction in the United States House of Representatives, 1821-1895
Young, Cheryl Denise
Doctor of Philosophy
Bill introduction was controlled by committees throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. During that time, committees normally introduced bills when offering their reports on the floor during the House's regular order of business. At the end of that century, however, the process was thoroughly dominated by Representatives who were able to introduce bills off the floor by simply handing them to the Clerk for reference to committee. Movement from the limited opportunities committees had to report bills to the unrestricted ability members had to introduce them involved gradual changes in the rules and processes related to bill introduction. That transformation was a product of both institutional stress and individual desires. The House did not allow for a rapid change toward an introduction process oriented toward the individual member because it was initially organized to encourage every member to participate in each step of the legislative process. House rules and procedures were, therefore, more likely to promote bill introduction by committees, which were accepted as necessary subunits in the House's division of labor. Individual members were also slow to push for greater introduction opportunities as the benefits derived from bill introduction were neither consistent nor proven. Even when some found rewards from introducing bills, other members remained uncertain and unwilling to alter the rules to allow more time for members to introduce. The institution's inability to address the demands it received through the processes it had earlier employed and the membership's growing need to satisfy and provide for constituents led, after several rule alterations over nearly half a century, to the unlimited ability of members to introduce bills. That granting of freedom ultimately allowed committees to more thoroughly dominate the production of legislation than ever before, a result hardly anticipated by members who pushed for their own increased ability to introduce. Committee domination over the production of legislation, however, was a result of the explosion of member-introduced bills introduced off the floor, an occurrence that allowed committees to be highly selective of the member-introduced bills they chose to consider.
Political science; History; American history