The Journal of Politics

Original Articles

The Congressional Pork Barrel in a Republican Era

Kenneth N. Bickersa1 and Robert M. Steina2

a1 Indiana University

a2 Rice University


In this article, we ask what the pattern of distributive spending has been during the 104th Congress, in which Republicans have been in the majority, compared to the preceding Congress when Democrats were the majority party. We seek to understand the patterns of change in light of four alternative explanations of distributive spending. The changes in the content and recipients of federal domestic outlays between the 103rd and 104th Congresses are suggestive of a partisan influence. Republican control of Congress does not appear to have significantly altered the politics of domestic spending. However, Republican control has influenced the content of domestic public policy. The House under Republican control produced significantly more contingent liability obligations than the 103rd Congress—programs that are ideologically and politically compatible with the interests of Republican representatives. Evidence suggests that Republican control has produced a partial shift in the interests that are rewarded by federal spending.

(Online publication June 17 1999)

(Received February 08 2000)