Divided Government and Congressional Investigations

Abstract

This article explores the political determinants of congressional investigatory activity. Using Mayhew’s list of high-profile probes updated through 2006, we developed five measures of the frequency and intensity of investigative oversight. Contra Mayhew, we found that divided government spurs congressional investigatory activity. A shift from unified to divided government yields a five-fold increase in the number of hearings held and quadruples their duration. Conditional party government models also offer explanatory leverage because homogeneous majorities are more likely to investigate the president in divided government and less likely to do so in unified government. This dynamic is strongest in the House, but analyses of the Senate also afford consistent, if muted, evidence of partisan agenda control.

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