Surprisingly Normal: Recognition of Black Issues by Non-Black Members of Congress. 2008.Abstract.
Debates in the race and representation literature have been focused on whether race matters for the substantive representation of black interests. However, this debate has overlooked the basic reality that the vast majority of black issue legislation is sponsored by non-black members of Congress. I introduce a problem-solving framework to analyze sponsorship of black issue legislation from 1948 to 1997. The results show that black issue recognition has changed over time, but ideology, institutional position, and district composition are the core determinants of member decisions to recognize black issues. Rather than relying upon the outsider pressure of protest or the insider influence of descriptive black representation, black Americans can expand the scope of conflict by simply electing white liberal representatives. Contrary to expectations of the exceptional quality of black agenda setting, in post-war America black politics is surprisingly normal.
Legislative Problem-Solving: Exploring Bill Sponsorship in Post-war America. 2010.Abstract.
Given the small number of bills that are actually enacted into public policy, it is puzzling that members continue to sponsor bills at such high rates. The conventional approach to this puzzle has been to either focus on the determinants of legislative effectiveness or to conceive of bill sponsorship as symbolic position-taking. As a result, we know relatively little about how sponsorship patterns vary across members and over time, and more importantly the introduction of legislation has been divorced from the policy process. I address both of these problems by offering a ``problem-solving" framework of bill sponsorship that is compatible with standard conceptions of goal-oriented behavior and conceives of sponsorship as placing issues onto the public agenda. Using multilevel models I analyze the volume and content of members' legislative portfolios from 1947 to 1998. I find that members adjust their sponsorship according to changing circumstances, whether those changes are in terms of their own institutional positions or broader developments in the social, political, and economic environments. Bill sponsorship is neither irrational nor devoid of policy relevance. It is a tool that members use to recognize problems and cultivate reputations as problem-solvers.