Studying the House Republican Party
Political scientists have long studied the U.S. House of Representatives, and there is now almost an embarrassment of riches in most areas of congressional and legislative studies. Congress is an open environment, with staff and members frequently eager to speak with interested researchers. Congress, especially the House of Representatives, produces and requires the paperwork and documentation that are great resources for scholars. There are hundreds of roll-call votes each Congress that can undergo complex statistical analysis. Research on voting patterns has been especially attractive since the mid-1970s, when electronic voting increased the number of recorded votes. Information on campaign funds is plentiful, especially since the 1970s campaign legislation required much fuller candidate, party, and contributor disclosure.
Yet at least one area remains virtually unexplored—the minority (almost always Republican) party in the House. There are studies of party leaders, but most focus on the majority-party leadership. In studies of congressional-presidential relations, the congressional side is dominated by the images of majority party leaders. There are also studies of the relationship of House leaders to rank-and-file members, but most focus on relations in the majority. Committee studies are numerous, but few mention the role of partisanship in committee deliberations or wonder how that role has changed.
There are at least two possible reasons for the neglect of the minority. First, because the minority party holds no committee chairs and only secondarily important party positions, many scholars regard the minority party as an insignificant player. Partisan identification may also play a role. The minority party in the House from 1954 through 1994 was the Republican party, and for at least thirty years