The Journal of Politics

Research Notes

Members' Goals and Coalition-Building Strategies in the U.S. House: The Case of Tax Reform

Randall Strahana1

a1 Emory University


An important issue raised by recent work which views members of the U.S. Congress as purposive actors is how to conceptualize members' goals. This note proposes that coalition-building strategies employed by congressional leaders may provide empirical evidence bearing on this question. Unlike other sources of evidence on members' goals, appeals made directly by leaders to rank-and-file legislators are not easily discounted as posturing or “position-taking.” An analysis of the committee coalition-building strategy employed by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Illinois) on the issue of tax reform in 1985 supports earlier findings on the importance of prestige and policy goals for members of this committee and provides some additional empirical grounding for a conceptualization of members' goals of the type advanced by Richard F. Fenno, Jr.

(Accepted February 17 1988)

(Received October 11 1988)

Randall Strahan is assistant professor of political science, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322.