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Strategic failure? The impact of failed legislation on enacted legislation

Social Sciences


In an environment with limited time and resources, why do some legislators repeatedly sponsoring the same bills that never pass? Are they only appealing to constituents or lobbyists, or do they reintroduce legislation for strategic purposes? Bachrach and Baratz (1962) characterize the second-face of power as having control over agenda-setting. In this light, my project seeks to understand whether legislators reintroduce legislation as a tactic to get their policies enacted. Using Filindra and Pearson-Merkowitz' comprehensive database covering more than 12,000 immigration-related bills across all 50 states from 1990-2016, I employ document similarity and text reuse analysis to detect content similarities between repeatedly failed bills and bills that are later successful in the legislative process. The findings suggest that rarely do bills that have failed repeatedly end up succeeding later on. Most often, bills that fail, do not impact the language in successful bills, suggesting more research should be done to uncover why legislators repeatedly sponsor the same failed bills.

Amanda Jadidi d'Urso

Political Science

April, 2018

DOI: 10.21985/N2B38P