Disjointed Pluralism: Institutional Innovation and the Development of the U.S. Congress

By Eric Schickler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Institutional Development, 1919–1932:
Cross-Party Coalitions, Bloc Government, and
Republican Rule
THE INSURGENT Republican rebellion of 1910 presaged some of the difficulties that GOP leaders would face in the 1919–32 period. In 1919, Republicans regained control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the revolt against Cannon but still faced a substantial faction of midwestern and western progressives who disagreed with important elements of the party's agenda. Prior to the 1920 election, the common goal of defeating Woodrow Wilson and his League of Nations united the Republicans. But soon after Warren Harding became president in 1921, sectoral and ideological fissures began to test GOP unity.The tension between GOP leaders' efforts to maintain working control of Congress and bids by cross-party coalitions to empower individual members and enhance the opportunities for bipartisan coalitions to shape policy outcomes drove institutional development in this period. While cross-party coalitions were not as successful as they would be in 1937– 52, when the conservative coalition dramatically reshaped congressional institutions, even in this earlier period progressive Republicans and Democrats managed to impose severe constraints on the GOP's party-building efforts. Senate Republican leaders had particular difficulty limiting the influence of progressive Republicans and their Democratic allies.Applying the criteria for case selection from chapter 1 generates a list of ten significant institutional changes in 1919–32:
1. House Republicans' forming a Steering Committee in 1919
2. Separating the House majority leader's position from the committee system in 1919
3. Recentralizing jurisdiction over appropriations in the House and Senate
4. Consolidating the Senate committee system in 1920, with the elimination of forty standing committees
5. The formation of the Senate “farm bloc” in 1921
6. Liberalizing the House rules in January 1924
7. Repealing the 1924 discharge rule in December 1925

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