Is Congress Really That Divided?

Laurel Harbridge, writing in the Washington Post, argues that “a key reason voting in Congress is so polarized in recent years is simply that the majority party allows only a few bills come to the floor for a vote, and these are usually the measures that divide the two parties sharply. But once you look beyond these bills, you can see a surprising stability in bipartisanship over time in the House.”

“An alternative way to gauge patterns of bipartisanship is to look at co-sponsors of all measures. Members decide whether to co-sponsor a bill before the majority party decides whether a bill will come to a vote, and members form these co-sponsorship coalitions on many more bills than actually come to a vote. Co-sponsorship patterns on legislation can thus illuminate how much underlying bipartisanship may actually exist.”

“Analyzing these co-sponsorship networks shows that bipartisan agreement — defined as at least 20 percent of the co-sponsors being from the opposite party as the bill’s original sponsor — persisted to a surprising degree from 1973 to 2006. Bipartisanship in bill co-sponsorship coalitions declined by less than 20 percent over this period:”


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