My dissertation addresses my primary research interest, agenda setting in Congress. The dissertation specifically examines the decline in lawmaking we have seen over the past several decades, and traces the roots of this decline to the committee system, where committees are devoting more resources to oversight and other forms of non-legislative policymaking at the expense of legislating.
My dissertation develops an original theory to explain this important shift. I posit that committees pursue two main goals: helping their individual members achieve their individual goals, and gaining (or retaining) decisionmaking authority. Advancing legislation often means competing with other committees for scarce floor space and time. In pursuing their goals, then, committees face uncertainty about whether legislation will be considered at all. Party leaders have exerted more control over congressional agenda setting since the 1970s, which has changed the contours and availability of legislative authority. In response, many committees have spent less time and fewer resources developing legislation through hearings and markups, and more time making policy through oversight of the federal bureaucracy. Over time different committees have come to play larger or smaller legislative roles, which in turn shapes the government's broader agenda.

Conference presentations

2016 - MPSA Annual Meeting, SPSA Annual Meeting

2015 - APSA Annual Meeting, MPSA Annual Meeting, SPSA Annual Meeting

2014 - APSA Legislative Studies Virtual Workshop, APSA Annual Meeting (poster), MPSA Annual Meeting

E-mail: jlewallen@utexas.edu

Twitter: @jonlewallen
Government Department profile


Related research in progress

"Bidding For Attention: Effort, Efficiency, and Oversight in Legislative Committees" (with Scott Moser)

  • This manuscript uses formal theory to conceptualize committee competition for floor space as an all-pay auction and tests our model's empirical implications.
  • Presented at the 2016 MPSA Annual Meeting and 2015 EPSA Annual Meeting

Mailing address:
The University of Texas at Austin
Government Department
158 W 21st St. STOP A1800
Austin, TX 78712-1704