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Law making is the primary role of the Congress. The legislative process is made up of several steps from the introduction of the bill to the consent stage. For a bill to become law, it passes through the standardized legislative process of motions and debates. The legislative process requires that the bill be read at least three times before it can be made law. This requirement is derived from the ancient parliamentary proceedings of the United Kingdom. The idea of reading a bill derives its origin from the fact that members of the ancient parliament had to literally read out the bill for the other members to know its content. This was due to the absence of the copying technology at the time. Before the Congress or the House of Representatives consider a bill, a member of any of the two bodies must sponsor the bill. Other members of Congress or the House may choose to co-sponsor the bill, while others may decide to reject the bill. The bill is then presented to the committee for review. At this stage, the committee may choose to send the bill to specialized sub-committees for study, revisions, and approval. Upon receipt of a positive vote by the subcommittee, the bill is presented to the head committee for more reviews, amendments, and voting. When taken to the House, the bill is subjected to a series of readings – first, second and third – before it can be presented to the president for consent upon a favorable voting by a majority of the House or Congress members. This essay will analyze the lobbying aspect of the legislative process by using various theories and interest groups. It will also analyze the president’s role in influencing decision-making.
Interest groups influence the legislative process by providing legislators with relevant information that helps shape the policy preferences. The interest groups are in possession of all relevant information that pertains to new legislation. This is to the extent that these lobby groups write the initial drafts. Thus, the interest groups have substantial influence over the setup of the legislative agenda. These groups help create the language in legislation proposals. The lobbyists provide the Congress members with information about policies. From this brief overview of the role of lobbyists, it be seen that the provision of information is meant to influence the committee members before the bill can be presented to the House. The puzzle created by the lobbying process is why legislators constrain themselves by delegating the reviewing and amendment role to the committees. The restrictive rules followed in the amendment process serve to grant the committees an agenda-setting advantage. Secondly, most committees are constituted of the members of the House who are biased towards a common direction.
Interest groups have four basic features, which are discussed below. Firstly, interest groups are the providers of information. These groups provide two forms of information: information on policy and on politics (strategic information). Policy information is essential for the legislators who do not have sufficient time to analyze it and who have insufficient expert knowledge on the subject of the policy. These members are uncertain about their reelection, policy performance, and legislative processes. The lack of this information would make it difficult for such legislators to make decisions. Interest groups, therefore, enable legislators to vote for a bill and run their campaigns in the way that they ought to relate to their constituents and which of these constituents they should not relate to. Studies indicate that it is much easier for interest groups to persuade members who are undecided on a policy issue. In this light, the lobby groups may strategically choose what information to relay. Secondly, interest groups provide money to the Congress as a way of influencing the decision making process. This can happen in two ways, where the groups give campaign contributions and in the form of public action committees (PAC). The money provided to legislators may not necessarily affect the voting process, but it enables interest groups to gain access to the legislation activity. However, the contributions may affect the voting of members if the issue at hand is not of high public salience. Lastly, interest groups use outsider strategies that are intended to put pressure on Congress. This may be in the form of amassing public support to push members of the Congress to pass a bill. Members use these strategies if there are some prospects of conflict amongst the Congress members. The absence of conflict would see the issues reach the agenda through enthusiasm and active mobilization. Groups that lack sufficient funds, such as those by citizen groups and those that are reliant on the members, are more likely to use outsider strategies. Grassroots strategies may be used to show the Congress the political preference of the mass voters.
Lobby groups are in a position to generalize their strategies in dealing with the government officials. If forced by circumstances, they tend to avoid making public statements. This is because the strategy of lobbying is dependent on the issue which is being lobbied. Lobby groups must take into consideration the context of the bill before making a choice on the strategy to adopt. This context shapes the group’s incentives to be used besides lobbying and the opportunities available for the group to commence different forms of conflict expansion. The spatial model is relevant in trying to explain the legislative choices and costs of lobbying. Interest groups are modeled as strategic actors for understanding these groups’ behavior. It is likely that interest groups engage in decision making if the benefits of such tactics exceed the cost incurred or where the costs and benefits are equal. This consideration is specific for the different lobby groups that have specific tactics for the different issues. The costs of the lobby’s action is made up of the spatial legislative framework, the costs of legislation and the group’s resources. The group, depending on the relative importance of the issue, derives the benefits for itself. Based on the spatial model, the group’s strategies should be modeled to achieve policy objectives in Congress. The spatial model of legislative choice postulates that Congress members possess the ideal preferences for policies. The lobby groups that wish to influence these preferences have three options: alter the derived preferences of the individuals in the Congress, changing the dimensions of the debate at issue and altering the legislative dockets in which the legislation exists. Lobby groups may change individual member’s preferences. It may effect this change by modifying the outcomes of a one-dimensional case by altering the main point by the lead member or the opinion held by the committee members on the issue. By altering this ideal point, the lobby group creates another dimension for the policy in question. Again, lobby groups may strategically alter the rules in which a proposed bill exists. The objective of the groups in making these alterations is to get an open or a closed rule by the Congress rules committee.
The legislative context is made up of costs that act as constraints to the groups lobbying choices. A new issue is likely to attract fewer costs as the issue space is not well-defined. The costs incurred by lobby groups are also dependent on the conditions from which the members derive their preferences. It is also less costly to change the preferences of few members, as opposed to changing those of many Congress members. The cost to the group also depends on the procedural context. This means that it is increasingly costly to deal with bills that have been subjected to multiple committees. It is disadvantageous as opposed to dealing with a bill that has been subjected to the audience of a single committee. The lobbying cost estimation also takes into consideration whether the change is to be effected in the Senate members or the House members. The lobby group must take into consideration this bicameral context. Dealing with the House involves greater costs, simply because it contains stricter rules in comparison to that of the Senate. Besides costs, lobby groups are also constrained by organizational capabilities. Organizational capabilities, such as resources, nature of the group in terms of its personnel and membership, all have an effect on the selection of strategies. The group’s resource base has the effect of constraining the actions of the lobby group.
A cost benefit analysis of a particular tactic is then carried out. A tactic is chosen by the lobby group if such selection has greater benefits as compared to the costs. The costs of doing business for these groups also entail the cost of understanding a bill’s spatial context. The benefits derived by a group depend on the group’s alignment to other interest groups. An increase in action costs means that the benefits to be obtained are likely to diminish.
The Game Theory
A study conducted by Austin-Smith in 1997 examines reasons why a principal would decide to delegate the decision making power to informed agents, who are probably biased, or would decide merely to communicate with the agent while retaining the decision making power. The study showed that delegation of the decision making power has the potential of benefiting the principal, even if such delegation introduces biased elements in the policy. A principal would choose to delegate information on the premise that, by doing so, it would give the informed party the opportunity to come up with an informed policy. Austin-Smith also examines instances where the principal delegates the power to make decisions to an intermediary. If a closed rule is used, the involvement of a committee with the similar interests to those of the interest group increases the transmission of information. This happens at the expense of having increased biases in the policy choice. However, if an open rule is applied, there is no mechanism that would induce the interest group to transmit information. This means that the policy is not subject to bias. There will always be a certain level of biases above which the House should use the closed rule and below which the open rule may be used. The informational theory relating to committees can be used to explain the complication of committee biases and the procedural institutions that govern the decision making process. If the decision making process requires the input of an informed party, it is the duty of the legislature to appoint a committee that would communicate with the expert. An optimal level can always be reached with the use of both open and closed rules. This is because there exists no monotonic relationship amongst absolute biases of the committee and the implemented procedural rules.
The president has a role in agenda setting and policy making. It would then be appropriate to deduct that the president will in some instances play the role of an "interest" party. The president makes use of various strategies in the creation and set up of policy agendas. However, it becomes difficult to assess the actions of the president in influencing such decision making. The president affects the decision making process by proposing legislation. He could also persuade Congress members to vote in favor of a legislation he has influenced. He could do this by threatening to decline the consent to any bill presented, that is contrary to that he has helped set up.
Lobby groups present an opportunity for members outside the Congress or House to make a substantive contribution to the legislative process. Pluralism enables all parties affected by a given policy to mediate with the House representatives. It is also indicative of a healthy political system, as it suppresses abusive governments. It also gives an opportunity for all conflicting parties to reach an amicable solution. As lobby groups present the information that aids the decision making process, the legislations are well informed. Caution should be exercised not to allow biased legislation to be passed simply because certain people have influence over the decision making process. Pluralism at times has the effect of not achieving the best results. Many actors may want their interests considered, thereby making the legislative process illegitimate.