Separation of Powers and Legislative Organization

Separation of Powers and Legislative Organization: The President, the Senate, and Political Parties in the Making of House Rules

Winner of the 2015 Alan Rosenthal Prize, Legislative Studies Section, American Political Science association

My book Separation of Powers and Legislative Organization: The President, the Senate, and Political Parties in the Making of House Rules (Cambridge University Press) examines how the constitutional requirements of the lawmaking process, together with factional divisions within the parties, affect the distribution of power within the House.

Gisela_cover#5-2_0414The consideration of constitutional actors and intraparty factions in the analysis of House rule making marks a significant departure from previous theories, which postulate the House as an institution that sets its rules in isolation. I argue that, by constitutional design, the success of the House in passing laws is contingent on the preferences of the Senate and the president; House members thus anticipate these preferences as they make strategic decisions about rules. Through an examination of major rule changes from 1879 to 2013, I analyze how changes in the preferences of constitutional actors outside the House, as well as their political alignments vis-à-vis House factions, predict the timing of rule changes and the type of rules adopted

Table of Contents and Chapter 1: A Constitutional Perspective on House Organization

Reviews and Endorsements

Review, Illinois News Bureau

“In Separation of Powers and Legislative Organization, Gisela Sin takes a simple, clear, and powerful idea – that one branch of government might well take the political circumstances in the other branches of government into account – and uses it to develop a rich theory of institutional reform. She applies this account, quite successfully, to a very large swath of the history of American political institutions. I was not alone in doubting that, as plausible as her idea is, it would really add to our understanding of major institutional reforms, such as the infamous ‘revolt’ against the House Speaker. In her showing that my intuition was wrong, she not only extends our empirical understanding but also shows the real power of science.”
John Aldrich, Duke University, North Carolina
“While most congressional scholars (myself included) generally don’t look to the Constitution to explain chamber rules, after reading Professor Sin’s groundbreaking work, I am convinced. The amazing thing about her argument is that it is on the one hand obvious, but on the other almost completely overlooked by a generation of congressional scholars. This book will drive significant revisions to both theories of Congress and theories of legislative design more generally.”
William Bianco, Indiana University


“The study of Congress is in desperate need of new ideas and new perspectives, and Gisela Sin offers a provocative and interesting one. She views the internal organization of the House as a bargain among a Speaker-aligned majority, a nonaligned majority faction, and the minority. [S]he shows how this bargain changes in response to changes in the Senate and the president – for example, by allocating more authority to extremists in order to extract concessions from the Senate. This perspective will resonate with contemporary observers of the Tea Party. [However], Sin shows it affords considerable leverage on the history of Congress. The fresh ideas, plus new primary data, a formal model, quantitative tests and qualitative case studies make this book an exemplar of what congressional research can be.”
Charles M. Cameron, Princeton University, New Jersey

“In a book of rare breadth, Gisela Sin completes the package of legislative organization studies. Theoretically and historically, she places legislative rules in institutional context. She constructs valuable new data sources and applies simple yet powerful analytical techniques to reveal that when remaking itself, America’s legislature has the executive in mind.”
Daniel Carpenter, Harvard University, Massachusetts

“Gisela Sin is poised to make a strong contribution to our understanding of House rules changes in a separation-of-powers system of government. Her creative and ambitious project expands the set of actors involved in the decision and focuses on the concentrated power of subgroups within the majority and minority parties. This is a key element in understanding House behavior that political science scholarship does not take into account as much as it ought to.”
Wendy J. Schiller, Brown University, Rhode Island

“In this highly original book, Gisela Sin argues that considerations of bargaining influence vis-à-vis the Senate and Executive shape rules choices within the House of Representatives. It is an important departure from existing chamber-centric accounts of historical procedural developments, and a much needed foray into the strategic implications of bicameralism.”
John D. Wilkerson, University of Washington