Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cameron: Veto Bargaining

This article, by Cameron, explains how the president can use his veto power to bargain with Congress, and what Congress' responses can be to the president's use of his veto power.

i. The veto enables presidents to influence legislative outcomes

ii. Divided government does not make governing impossible, it simply encourages more bargaining

iii. Analyzes all 434 vetoes from Truman to Bush, emphasis on how veto rates are affected by unified or divided government as well as the relative importance of a piece of legislation.

1. Vetoes are rare under unified government

2. When a government is divided and legislation is important:

a. Vetoes are not rare

b. Vetoes are often part of veto chains – sequential bargaining process between Congress and President

c. Presidents routinely use vetoes to extract policy concessions from congress (80% of his cases, Congress made some sort of concession)

iv. Builds on Neustadt’s idea that presidential reputation is critical to bargaining power.

v. Agrees with Mayhew’s claim that divided government does not decrease legislative productivity but argues that divided government does influence the nature of those laws passed – more veto bargaining happens

vi. Preference driven approach

vii. Three models of Veto Bargaining

1. Romer-Rosenthal model (take it or leave it bargaining) – President and Congress have complete information; Cameron wants to replace this because It is too simple. But despite the simplicity – it suggests that the power to veto can shape the content of legislation even if vetoes are never used.

2. Override model: Three players (floor median, the president, the override pivot); used when the floor median is closer to the override pivot than to the president. The floor will design a bill that it knows will be vetoed, but hopes to override the veto. The focus is not on the president, but the override pivot.

a. Assumes that the ideal point of any potential override player is much closer to that of the congressional majority than the president’s ideal point.

b. Congress will not make concessions with the president because the goal is to override the president

c. There is the probability of a breakdown after the veto – that the bill simply dies and never gets reformulated and passed: Cameron says this possibility reflects the importance of the bill

3. Sequential Veto Bargaining: Used when the president’s ideal point is closer to the floor median than the override pivot. Congress will try to pass something acceptable to the president. In this, Congress amends the bill at each round (in Model 2, failure to override is poor luck, here failure to override is necessary). Each veto reveals information about the president’s true ideal point so Congress modifies its proposals accordingly.

a. Cameron says the uncertainty of the president’s ideal point is related to the president’s reputation

i. Played when the president’s ideal point is closer than the override’s pivot point.

Application of the Models: Congress is more productive under unified government than under divided government; during divided government a few items are taken off the legislative table that would have found a place under unified government, then those are often resolved with lengthy haggling.

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