Blame-proof policymaking: Congress and base closures
Wilson, Charles L.
Weingartner, James L.
Stockton, Paul N.
Eyre, Dana P.
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In contrast to the current political science literature on Congress, this thesis argues that the reelectability of Congressmen is not damaged when military bases in their districts are closed. According to Mayhew, Lindsay, and other scholars, members of Congress must prevent their bases from being closed or face 'great electoral jeopardy.' Nevertheless, beginning in 1987, legislators created a process that was designed to facilitate base closures. Why would they engage in such apparently suicidal behavior? Have voters actually punished the legislators that suffered base closures in their districts, as Mayhew and others would predict? After examining the Congressional election returns from 1990 and 1992, which followed the base closure rounds of 1989 and 1991, respectively, this thesis found that base closure has no effect on the reelectability of members of Congress. What accounts for this finding? Although bases often do provide important economic benefits for Congressional districts, and would therefore be expected to be of critical concern to voters, Congress designed a base closure system that insulated legislators from blame if bases were closed in their own districts. The success of this 'blame-proof' system has important implications for the future of the base-closing process and the larger question of how, and under what circumstances, Congress delegates power to the President.
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