When’s the Party (or Coalition)? Agenda-Setting in a Highly Fragmented, Decentralized Legislature

Mónica Pachón, Gregg B. Johnson

Abstract


This paper examines committee behavior in Colombia to determine whether parties or coalitions exert agenda-setting powers despite the fact that the formal rules seemingly create little incentive for cooperation. Colombia’s party system is extremely fragmented, electoral volatility is high, and there is a long history of candidate-centered electoral rules, all of which suggests that party and coalition leaders have few tools to control the legislative agenda. Additionally, chairs do not directly control committee reports as in other presidential cases. However, the naming of ponentes (rapporteurs) to write ponencias (bill reports) for the committee may give leaders the opportunity to set the agendas in committees. Hence, we test whether committee chairs strategically name ponentes to control the agenda and favor their partisan or coalition interests. We test these ideas using a unique dataset covering two complete legislative sessions and thousands of bills. Overall, we find that committee chairs use the ponente process to set the agenda and privilege legislation sponsored by allies, especially the executive.

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