Cracking the black box of lawmaking

A brief summary of the forthcoming article “Tracing the Flow of Policy Ideas in Legislatures: A Text Reuse Approach” by John Wilkerson, David Smith, and Nicholas Stramp:

HR 3590 of the 111th Congress (2009-10) proposed mortgage subsidies for service personnel and was just 7 pages long as introduced. As enacted, HR 3590 was titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and was over 900 pages long. How did this bill evolve? Who contributed to this evolution? In our article we describe a new approach to studying lawmaking that systematically traces the progress of policy ideas in legislation, rather than the progress of bills. This new approach allows us to paint a more complete picture of how “ObamaCare” developed – a picture that includes important policy contributions from Republicans and Democrats alike. One important implication is that the methods described may eventually enable citizens to more fairly assess the policy performance of their representatives. Lawmakers who are not effective in advancing bills may be more effective in advancing their policy ideas. We offer many examples in the case of this one law.

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The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.