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Binder: The partisan basis of procedural choice

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Binder. 1996. The partisan basis of procedural choice: Allocating parliamentary rights in the House, 1789-1990. APSR.

In Brief

Changes in the House rules are driven by short term partisan gain, not by long term partisan interest or the workload of the House.


Binder analyzes a data set of all rules changes in the periods 1789-1894 (while the majority was not in full control of proceedings) and 1895-1990 (when the majority had gained full control) using logit models.


Binder tests 6 hypotheses covering three possible factors: rules are changed to 1) accommodate a higher workload, 2) protect the long-term interests of a party, 3) protect the short-term interests of the majority party. Binder finds the most support for hypothesis (3).


Majoritarian rules are created when the majority party has a strong majority. When the majority is small and heterogenous, minority rights are more likely to be created. Changes depend on the size and homogeneity of 'both' parties, though, not just the majority party.

This is a strongly path dependent conclusion. It fits well with Douglas North (1990) in seeing rules endogenously evolving over time to meet the needs of the players. Another work (by Douglas Dion?) argues the opposite: minority rights are suppressed when majorities are small.