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"What's In It For Me?": Why Members of Congress Pursue Oversight
Unformatted Document Text:  This limitation notwithstanding, these figures can provide a general sense of many subcommittees’ relative positions in the pecking order. Take, for example, the Oversight& Investigations Subcommittee of the Energy & Commerce Committee. This subcom-mittee’s estimate for the Republicans appears as the right-most black dot in Figure 2,as is labeled in the figure. The associated 95% confidence interval for this subcommitteelies entirely to the right of 52 other subcommittees’ confidence intervals; entirely to theleft of three other subcommittee’s confidence intervals; and overlaps with the confidenceintervals of 64 other subcommittees. Thus, we can say with 95% confidence that HouseRepublicans strictly prefer the Energy & Commerce Committee’s Oversight & Investiga-tions Subcommittee to 52 other specific subcommittees; three other subcommittees arestrictly preferred to this subcommittee; and we cannot reject the null hypothesis of pref-erence indifference between this and 64 other subcommittees. Statements of this sort,despite lacking the precision of “a b c”-type declarations, are nonetheless useful in determining MCs’ relative preferences for oversight-specific subcommittees. From a cursory look at Figures 1 and 2, it appears that the oversight-specific subcom- mittees are clustered towards the bottom of the distribution, indicating that these bodiesare among the least preferred subcommittees for both Democratic and Republican MCs.Two difference of means tests confirm this initial observation. For the Democrats, 0.411points separate the mean cardinal value of a seat on an oversight-focused subcommitteeand the mean cardinal value of a seat on a non-oversight-focused subcommittee. For theRepublicans, a 0.355 point gap exists. 20 On a scale in which less than 2.5 points separate the most and least preferred subcommittees, these differences are nontrivial. The following table reports these differences of means. It also includes differences of means for both parties in the House under both Democratic and Republican presidentialadministrations. While some of these differences fall slightly outside of conventionallyaccepted levels of statistical significance, at the very least these results are suggestive ofthe Democrats disfavoring service on oversight-focused subcommittees under both Demo-cratic and Republican presidents. The same can be said for Republicans during the BushAdministration, although we observe a null finding for Republicans during the Clintonyears. Converting these cardinal values to a more intuitive ordinal scale (assigning a value of 1 to the most-preferred subcommittee and 119 to the least-preferred), yields similar results.Democrats and Republicans both assign oversight-focused subcommittees a mean rank ofapproximately 67 th , while other subcommittees have a mean rank of approximately 51 st – a difference of 16 positions. 21 By either metric, it is clear that MCs, on average, prefer assignments on subcommittees that do not focus on oversight and investigative work tothose that do. 2.2.2 Oversight Subcomm. Preferences & Divided Government The previous section showed that MCs would rather serve on subcommittees with primar-ily legislative jurisdictions than on those subcommittees that focus primarily on oversight (Adler, 2002), to say nothing of MCs with other motivations aside from reelection. Thus, when oneaggregates these diverse preferences, one may observe indifference among subcommittees at the partycaucus/conference aggregate level. 20 Results obtained via paired-samples t-tests. For the Democratic data: t=3.90, df=35.6, p=0.000; For the Republican data: t=3.12, df=20.0, p=0.005 21 for the Democrats: t=1.96, df=23.1, p=0.062; for the Republicans: t=1.86, df=22.1, p=0.076 10

Authors: Feinstein, Brian.
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background image
This limitation notwithstanding, these figures can provide a general sense of many
subcommittees’ relative positions in the pecking order. Take, for example, the Oversight
& Investigations Subcommittee of the Energy & Commerce Committee. This subcom-
mittee’s estimate for the Republicans appears as the right-most black dot in Figure 2,
as is labeled in the figure. The associated 95% confidence interval for this subcommittee
lies entirely to the right of 52 other subcommittees’ confidence intervals; entirely to the
left of three other subcommittee’s confidence intervals; and overlaps with the confidence
intervals of 64 other subcommittees. Thus, we can say with 95% confidence that House
Republicans strictly prefer the Energy & Commerce Committee’s Oversight & Investiga-
tions Subcommittee to 52 other specific subcommittees; three other subcommittees are
strictly preferred to this subcommittee; and we cannot reject the null hypothesis of pref-
erence indifference between this and 64 other subcommittees. Statements of this sort,
despite lacking the precision of “a
b
c”-type declarations, are nonetheless useful in
determining MCs’ relative preferences for oversight-specific subcommittees.
From a cursory look at Figures 1 and 2, it appears that the oversight-specific subcom-
mittees are clustered towards the bottom of the distribution, indicating that these bodies
are among the least preferred subcommittees for both Democratic and Republican MCs.
Two difference of means tests confirm this initial observation. For the Democrats, 0.411
points separate the mean cardinal value of a seat on an oversight-focused subcommittee
and the mean cardinal value of a seat on a non-oversight-focused subcommittee. For the
Republicans, a 0.355 point gap exists.
20
On a scale in which less than 2.5 points separate
the most and least preferred subcommittees, these differences are nontrivial.
The following table reports these differences of means. It also includes differences of
means for both parties in the House under both Democratic and Republican presidential
administrations. While some of these differences fall slightly outside of conventionally
accepted levels of statistical significance, at the very least these results are suggestive of
the Democrats disfavoring service on oversight-focused subcommittees under both Demo-
cratic and Republican presidents. The same can be said for Republicans during the Bush
Administration, although we observe a null finding for Republicans during the Clinton
years.
Converting these cardinal values to a more intuitive ordinal scale (assigning a value of 1
to the most-preferred subcommittee and 119 to the least-preferred), yields similar results.
Democrats and Republicans both assign oversight-focused subcommittees a mean rank of
approximately 67
th
, while other subcommittees have a mean rank of approximately 51
st
– a difference of 16 positions.
21
By either metric, it is clear that MCs, on average, prefer
assignments on subcommittees that do not focus on oversight and investigative work to
those that do.
2.2.2
Oversight Subcomm. Preferences & Divided Government
The previous section showed that MCs would rather serve on subcommittees with primar-
ily legislative jurisdictions than on those subcommittees that focus primarily on oversight
(Adler, 2002), to say nothing of MCs with other motivations aside from reelection. Thus, when one
aggregates these diverse preferences, one may observe indifference among subcommittees at the party
caucus/conference aggregate level.
20
Results obtained via paired-samples t-tests. For the Democratic data: t=3.90, df=35.6, p=0.000;
For the Republican data: t=3.12, df=20.0, p=0.005
21
for the Democrats: t=1.96, df=23.1, p=0.062; for the Republicans: t=1.86, df=22.1, p=0.076
10


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