Political Science ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-7-2018


Congressional scholarship has long sought to understand the conditions under which a member of Congress is successful in converting a policy idea into a law. Two areas of this research, the bill sponsorship literature and the legislative effectiveness literature, have developed scholarly understanding on both the motivations and outcomes of bill sponsorship, as well as illuminating the conditions under which a bill is more likely to become law. The empirical approaches of these areas of study however, do not adequately capture the complexities of Congress. Most studies of the legislative process treat bill sponsorship and the policy process as a linear progression wherein an individual bill is introduced and either passes or fails in a given Congress.

Using a mixed-methods research design, this study demonstrates that a substantial amount of legislation in a given Congress has either been introduced in previous Congresses, or will be reintroduced in subsequent Congresses. As a result, many bills are not independent pieces of legislation, but rather, are “recycled” throughout time. Utilizing pooled data from the 96th to 113th Congresses (1979-2015) and new variables identifying recycled bills, this study determines that legislative recycling affects the scheduling of bills from committee and the likelihood of legislative success for members of the United States House of Representatives. Across multiple levels of analysis, recycled bills are found to be negatively associated with the likelihood of success, and patterns of legislative recycling indicate that some policy areas are more likely to have repeated bill introductions than others. In a legislative case study of the Congressional Tri-Caucus’s Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA), this study reviews the historical, institutional, and internal dimensions of a recycled policy proposal, finding that motivations for the reintroduction of HEAA include, but also extend beyond, the narrow purpose of lawmaking. Taken in sum, the study of legislative recycling adds both analytical and conceptual clarity to the study of Congress, and provides a number of departure points for future research.

Degree Name

Political Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Political Science

First Committee Member (Chair)

Michael S. Rocca

Second Committee Member

Gabriel R. Sanchez

Third Committee Member

Mala Htun

Fourth Committee Member

Kate Cartwright




Congress, Legislation, Health Equity, Tri-Caucus, Legislative Effectiveness, bill sponsorship

Document Type