Current Research

I have been engaged in various projects that build on my existing work at the intersection of institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

Executive Vetoes in the US States and Latin America 

In most presidential systems, the President has the power to veto bills approved by the legislature. Because legislative actors anticipate vetoes, presidential preferences shape bills long before they reach the President’s desk. Vetoes, therefore, are a crucial bargaining element in separation-of-power systems, influencing the complex relationship between the President and Congress. While in some systems the President can veto only an entire bill, in other countries the executive has the capacity to veto lines, or sections of a bill. Indeed, most U.S. states and presidential systems in Latin America empower their executives with a line-item veto. The extant literature (mostly on US States) argues that the partial veto enhances the power of executives to move policy closer to their preferences by enabling them to strike specific spending provisions from bills, and by enhancing their leverage with legislators, as they can promise not to veto in exchange for legislators’ support. In contrast, we argue that the partial veto perversely disempowers the executive, reducing his ability to influence the content of bills. When line-item veto prerogatives are present, the executive always has the incentive to veto the sections of the bill he dislikes. Legislators, knowledgeable of this possibility, adapt to the President’s prerogatives by choosing their most preferred policy, not that of the President. Thus, bargaining and compromise between the branches becomes more difficult. When the President can issue only total vetoes, legislators can grant the executive his preferred policy in exchange for a number of private goods. Since total vetoes package components of bills, they increase the credibility of the President and make compromise easier. The partial veto destroys an executive’s ability to credibly commit to not vetoing private goods, and thus renders “horse trading” and like compromise more difficult.

Palanza, Valeria (Universidad Catolica de Chile) and Gisela Sin. 2014.

  • Abstract: Our paper analyzes variations in legislative bargaining when the executive is endowed with the partial veto, as opposed to the package veto. Counter commonly held beliefs that the partial veto empowers the executive, we highlight its main effect to be exactly the opposite: the partial veto makes it more difficult for the executive to induce legislators to pass her preferred policy. Because the executive cannot credibly commit to refrain from using the partial veto, legislators adapt their behavior and alter contents of proposals –both in terms of private and public goods, moving them farther from the President’s ideal point. The package veto, in contrast, empowers the President by providing incentives to the legislature to seek a compromise. Additionally, while the package veto may bring congress and the executive closer over a sequential bargaining process, as suggested by Cameron, the partial veto causes bargaining to break down, discouraging consensus building.

The Tea Party

This project focuses on whether ideology actually drives Republicans to join the Tea Party caucus.

Hendry, David and Gisela Sin. 2014. Joining the Tea Party Caucus, A Survival Strategy (under review)

  • Abstract: Our paper explains why some Republicans in Congress join the Tea Party Caucus, while others do not. We argue that members of Congress strategically become members of the Tea Party Caucus because of career incentives generated by the structure of campaign finance networks. While well-connected members of Congress enjoy substantial success at pursuing political careers because they receive continued material support from their political parties, members of Congress with poor campaign finance networks cannot rely on that same support to advance their political careers. Thus, we argue that Republicans with poor campaign finance networks are more likely join the Tea Party Caucus as a strategy of political survival. By joining the Tea Party Caucus, these members can demonstrate to potential supporters that they have not been coopted by political elites, thereby potentially opening new avenues of support. We provide evidence of these dynamics by analyzing data on members’ campaign finance networks.

Party Coordination in Open List Proportional Systems

This project that analyzes how political parties coordinate the composition of their candidate lists in open-list proportional representation elections. The extant literature has presumed that political parties in these systems play little or no role in organizing electoral contests; my co-author and I, however, employ data from Brazil to demonstrate both the considerable extent and sophistication of party coordination.

Cheibub, Jose and Gisela Sin. 2014. (under review)

  • Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to study intra-party coordination in open list proportional representation systems. Specifically, we show that political parties play a central role in composing party lists and that, in so doing, they successfully prevent the eruption of all-out competition among co-partisans. We provide evidence of intra-party coordination for contemporary Brazil, which is, arguably, the worst case for finding such evidence.

Presidential Cabinets and Coalition Government in the US (with Chris Grady, graduate student, University of Illinois).

This project focuses on the U.S. Cabinet, and how the President can use it to build a legislative coalition in Congress. Cabinets imprint their policy preferences through the drafting of bills the President proffers to Congress and through the management of executive departments. Current research on cabinet appointments claims that the President chooses cabinets on the basis of individuals’ loyalty, ideology, and programmatic support, or on the basis of their competence, policy expertise, and political experience. I argue that cabinet builders consider not only expertise and loyalty but also the value of appeasing factions within their party. By distributing cabinet portfolios among individuals associated with party factions, a president can thus strategically build legislative coalitions in Congress. We are presently developing a model of how the President can manage a fragmented party by offering factions a credible commitment in a policy area.

Other Projects

  • The Cost of Electoral Coalitions: Party Fragmentation in Brazil’s OLPR System (with José Antonio Cheibub and Lara Mesquita, University of Rio de Janeiro)
  • Explaining Distribution of Power Within Latin American Legislatures (with Mercedes Garcia Montero, Universidad de Salamanca)
  • Separation of Powers and Lower-House Speaker Powers in American State Legislatures (with Brian Gaines, Political Science, University of Illinois)
  • How Interventions Intertwine Federalism, Democracy, and Economic Stability: India and Argentina (with Jenna Bednar, University of Michigan)