The Importance of Committee Assignments for Legislative Effectiveness

Image credit: Joakim Honkasalo


How crucial is a lawmaker’s committee assignment for the advancement of her proposed bills through the legislative process? We leverage incidents of committee exile, meaning the involuntary removal from a committee by a committee member after her party suffers significant electoral losses, to explore whether legislators are more or less successful at advancing their agenda items, depending on the committees on which they serve. Our analysis reveals that exiled lawmakers are significantly less successful at advancing their policy agendas in subsequent Congresses than their closest non-exiled co-partisans, effects that slowly fade over succeeding Congresses. Moreover, those exiled from specific committees perform much worse on the issue areas that serve as the focus of those committees. Hence, it appears that being exiled from a committee can have lasting consequences for a legislator’s trajectory as an effective lawmaker and the issue areas on which she experiences the greatest success. More broadly considered, our findings suggest that a legislator’s committee assignments do indeed have a profound influence over her effectiveness as a lawmaker.

Prepared for presentation at the 2019 Annual Meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 4-7, Chicago, IL.

Darrian Stacy
Darrian Stacy
Assistant Professor