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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Divided Government, Interest Groups, and Diverse Coalitions

How to pass bills during divided government? At, Geoff Lorenz suggests that building a diverse coalition of interests is important.
Concerns about legislative viability are exacerbated during divided government. Divided government makes many bills less viable in an absolute sense, because it requires a wider range of preferences to be satisfied for any given bill to pass into law. This makes efficient committee agenda-setting that much harder, and thus makes informative cues about legislative viability more valuable. Because such informative cues can be provided by interest diverse lobbying coalitions, diverse coalitions may be more effective during divided government. Indeed, during the periods of divided government (the 110th, 112th, and 113th Congresses) in the data, interest diverse coalitions were more influential than in periods of unified government. Large-but-homogenous coalitions, and coalitions that give high levels of PAC contributions, do not get a similar bump during divided government.
So what does this mean for the next two years of divided government? Some legislators may be reasonably wary to expend too much effort on advancing legislation, fearing it will die quietly in the other chamber if not in their own. Similarly, interest groups building lobbying coalitions might be inclined to focus on defense; after all, defending a preferred legislative status quo is easier when all legislation is harder to pass. But for their top priorities, these and other policy entrepreneurs should consider how they might cultivate diverse coalitions. What industries, or social causes, or other interests might support their legislative priorities? Instead of focusing on satisfying individual interests, they should consider how their legislation might garner support from diverse, if not necessarily strange, bedfellows.
Similarly, diverse coalitions in opposition help bring down GOP health care legislation.