In October, 2005, I commented on the intercameral differences within the Republican Congress on the question of federal grants for “homeland security.” The dispute–with the Senate favoring most of the money being divided equally among the states and the House favoring a high percentage of the disbursements being based on insured risk–is the stuff of classic bicameral policy disagreement. Insured risk tends to be roughly correlated with population, and so it is hardly a surprise that the House would prefer such a determination of where most of the money should go. The Senate, on the other hand, with its equal representation of even the smallest state, would be predicted to find the “risk” from terrorism to be about the same in Wyoming as it is in New York, and indeed that is the logic–the political logic–of its formula.
Now, fast forward to 2007. We had a change in party control, from both houses being Republican to both being Democratic. And at the moment, the chambers are once again bargaining over the formula for the distribution of homeland security grants. The proposals by each chamber again reveal the institutional biases of each chamber. But when compared to the 2005 intercameral bargaining, the 2007 proposals show even more starkly the difference between the parties and their constituencies, on this issue.
Here I compare the House and Senate proposals at each of these moments of bargaining:
2005 bills (Republican majorities)
House: 25% of funds distributed equally among states–but state must show need; most of rest allocated based on risk
Senate: 75% of funds distributed equally among states; 25% allocated according to risk
2007 bills (Democratic majorities)
House: 12.5% of funds distributed equally among states; most of rest allocated based on risk
Senate: 22.5% of funds distributed equally among states; most of rest according to risk
Wow. Good stuff!
Of course, one critical factor here is the relative sizes of the states each party draws its main support base from. That is, the parties’ positions (holding constant the chamber) are partly shaped by the same factor that separates the chambers (holding constant the parties). Consider the following breakdown of the populations of the states represented in each of these two Senates. The first column is the number of states (with half a state in each party row whenever the state delegation is split), and then the cumulative population of those states (or half states).
Before 2006 election
54 Reps 27.5 138,079,342
46 Dems 22.5 142,824,157
After 2006 election
49 Reps 24.5 118,950,125
51 Dems 25.5 161,953,374
Note that the Republican states constituted the minority of the population even when the Republicans held the (spurious) partisan majority of the Senate. (This a theme I have covered before, in a somewhat more refined analysis with electoral data and cool graphs!)
President Bush has threatened to veto this bill over several other provisions, especially that which would extend collective bargaining rights to baggage screeners and other employees who were barred such rights when DHS was established.
We may see the first successful override vote in the House during the W years. The bill passed 299-128. However, the vote was 60-38 in the Senate. These results means a lot of Republicans in each house went with the majority, even if the non-democratic chamber will be able to sustain the minority veto in this case. What a difference it makes which party is setting the congressional agenda!
My main source on the differences in the bills in 2007 was an article by Chris Strohm for Congress Daily. Sources on the 2005 bills are discussed at the previous planting (first link above).
In calculating state populations by party delegation, independents are counted as if members of the party with which they caucus (here, all Democrat: Jeffords, Sanders, Lieberman); population numbers are based on 2000 census.
On the specific issue of union rights for baggage screeners, I highly recommend the thread sparked by Matthew Yglesias in early March. The discussion in the comments contains pretty much the whole gamut of hypotheses about policy-making!