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"What's In It For Me?": Why Members of Congress Pursue Oversight
Unformatted Document Text:  Regarding variation across the different House subunits, the high number of oversight hearings that some non-oversight-focused subunits hold – and the dearth of hearings heldby subunits with a clear jurisdictional mandate to oversee the bureaucracy – is noteworthy.Although, as the aforementioned means indicate, oversight-focused subunits tend to holdmore oversight hearings than do other subunits, there were eight oversight-focused bodiesthat did not hold a single hearing during at least one Congress. 32 Moreover, many subunits without an oversight-focused jurisdiction vigorously engaged in oversight. In fact, duringthis period 20 different subunits without an oversight-focused jurisdiction held more thanten hearings within a given Congress. The Small Business (full) Committee alone has heldmore than 21 hearings in a given Congress on two separate occasions. Clearly, oversighthearings are not the exclusive province of the oversight subcommittees. 33 3.2 Hypotheses As Figures 7 & 8 shows, there is considerable variance in the number of oversight hearingsheld (a) across different subunits and (b) by specific subunits across time. In this section,I develop a set of hypotheses that may account for this extraordinary variation. • H 1 : Electoral Security: The average margin of victory in the previous election of a committee or subcommittee’s membership will be negatively correlated with thatsubcommittee’s oversight activity in the current Congress. • H 2 : MC Seniority: The average terms of House service of a committee or subcom- mittee’s members will be negatively correlated with that subcommittee’s oversightactivity. • H 3 : MC Bill Passage: The average number of bills that are sponsored by (sub)committee members that pass the House will be negatively correlated with that body’s over-sight activity. • H 4a : (Sub)comm. Preference Heterogeneity: Subunits with large 1 st dimension Com- mon Space score interquartile ranges will tend to engage in greater oversight thanthose with smaller ranges. • H 4b : ——- ——————– ———— Subunits with large 2 nd dimension Common Space score interquartile ranges will tend to engage in greater oversight than thosewith smaller ranges. • H 5 : Rules Committee Deference: Committees whose “legislative products” tend be be respected on the floor (specifically, committees whose bills are frequently assigned 32 These eight are: the Civil Service, Census & Agency Organization Subcommittee of the Govern- ment Reform & Oversight Committee (GROC) (107 th Congress); Technology & Procurement Policy Subcommittee of GROC (108 th ); the Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee of the International Re- lations Committee (109 th ); the Federalism & the Census Subcommittee of GROC (109 th ); the Energy & Resources Subcommittee of GROC (109 th ); the Terrorism, Unconventional Threats & Capabilities Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee (109 th ); the Oversight Subcommittee of the Ways & Means Committee (109 th ); and the Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee (109 th ). 33 There is also considerable oversight activity at both the subcommittee and full committee level. During the 1997-2006 period, full committees held 455 oversight hearings (3.79 hearings per committeeper Congress) and subcommittees held 1936 hearings (3.61 hearings per subcommittee per Congress). 24

Authors: Feinstein, Brian.
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Regarding variation across the different House subunits, the high number of oversight
hearings that some non-oversight-focused subunits hold – and the dearth of hearings held
by subunits with a clear jurisdictional mandate to oversee the bureaucracy – is noteworthy.
Although, as the aforementioned means indicate, oversight-focused subunits tend to hold
more oversight hearings than do other subunits, there were eight oversight-focused bodies
that did not hold a single hearing during at least one Congress.
32
Moreover, many subunits
without an oversight-focused jurisdiction vigorously engaged in oversight. In fact, during
this period 20 different subunits without an oversight-focused jurisdiction held more than
ten hearings within a given Congress. The Small Business (full) Committee alone has held
more than 21 hearings in a given Congress on two separate occasions. Clearly, oversight
hearings are not the exclusive province of the oversight subcommittees.
33
3.2
Hypotheses
As Figures 7 & 8 shows, there is considerable variance in the number of oversight hearings
held (a) across different subunits and (b) by specific subunits across time. In this section,
I develop a set of hypotheses that may account for this extraordinary variation.
H
1
: Electoral Security: The average margin of victory in the previous election of a
committee or subcommittee’s membership will be negatively correlated with that
subcommittee’s oversight activity in the current Congress.
H
2
: MC Seniority: The average terms of House service of a committee or subcom-
mittee’s members will be negatively correlated with that subcommittee’s oversight
activity.
H
3
: MC Bill Passage: The average number of bills that are sponsored by (sub)committee
members that pass the House will be negatively correlated with that body’s over-
sight activity.
H
4a
: (Sub)comm. Preference Heterogeneity: Subunits with large 1
st
dimension Com-
mon Space score interquartile ranges will tend to engage in greater oversight than
those with smaller ranges.
H
4b
: ——- ——————– ———— Subunits with large 2
nd
dimension Common
Space score interquartile ranges will tend to engage in greater oversight than those
with smaller ranges.
H
5
: Rules Committee Deference: Committees whose “legislative products” tend be
be respected on the floor (specifically, committees whose bills are frequently assigned
32
These eight are: the Civil Service, Census & Agency Organization Subcommittee of the Govern-
ment Reform & Oversight Committee (GROC) (107
th
Congress); Technology & Procurement Policy
Subcommittee of GROC (108
th
); the Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee of the International Re-
lations Committee (109
th
); the Federalism & the Census Subcommittee of GROC (109
th
); the Energy
& Resources Subcommittee of GROC (109
th
); the Terrorism, Unconventional Threats & Capabilities
Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee (109
th
); the Oversight Subcommittee of the Ways &
Means Committee (109
th
); and the Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee of the Veterans’ Affairs
Committee (109
th
).
33
There is also considerable oversight activity at both the subcommittee and full committee level.
During the 1997-2006 period, full committees held 455 oversight hearings (3.79 hearings per committee
per Congress) and subcommittees held 1936 hearings (3.61 hearings per subcommittee per Congress).
24


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