Competing Principals

Committees, Parties, and the Organization of Congress
Forrest Maltzman
The book discusses the role of congressional committees in the legislative process


Since Woodrow Wilson, political scientists have recognized the importance of congressional committees in the policy-making process. Congressional committees often determine what legislation will reach the floor of the House or Senate and what form that legislation will take. In spite of the broad consensus on the importance of congressional committees, there is little agreement on what explains committee action. Committees are alternately viewed as agents of the chamber, the party caucuses, or constituencies outside the institution. Each theory suggests a different distribution of power in the policy-making process.

Forrest Maltzman argues that none of these models fully captures the role performed by congressional committees and that committee members attempt to balance the interests of the chamber, the party caucus, and outside constituencies. Over time, and with the changing importance of a committee's agenda to these groups, the responsiveness of members of committees will vary. Maltzman argues that the responsiveness of the committee to these groups is driven by changes in procedure, the strength of the party caucus, and the salience of a committee's agenda. Maltzman tests his theory against historical data.

This book will appeal to social scientists interested in the study of Congress and legislative bodies, as well as those interested in studying the impact of institutional structure on the policy-making process.

Forrest Maltzman is Assistant Professor of Political Science, George Washington University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Despite the large amount of work in recent years on the construction of legislative committees, no one has had the same insight or offered any overarching explanation for the variation over time and across committees that we see in Congress. Even if one disagrees with some of Maltzman's assumptions or predictions, his attempt to integrate disparate theories of committee organization is a significant and important step forward. . . . Competing Principals is a well-written, well -argued, and ultimately very useful book. I expect that it will be required reading for scholars working in this field."
    American Political Science Review
  • ". . . a critical contribution to the study of congressional committee power, raising and answering questions central to congressional studies. With it, Maltzman provides clear theoretical and empirical progress explaining committee behavior and offers keen insights into the health of the democratic process itself."
    APSA Legislative Studies Section Newsletter
  • "This specialized study, of value to congressional scholars and partisan activists, enriches an understanding of the increasingly predictable patterns of committee variety."
  • "This book makes an important contribution to the ongoing scholarly debate over the role of committees in the United States Congress. . . . [This] is a book that adds in important ways to our understanding of why different committees behave differently and why it is important to understand that they do. As such, it deserves careful attention by serious students of the Congress."
    Political Science Quarterly

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 216pp.
  • 15 tables, 9 figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1997
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10781-0

Add to Cart
  • $89.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 1998
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08581-1

Add to Cart
  • $28.95 U.S.