Three Essays on Legislative Text Analysis

Open Access
Denny, Matthew
Graduate Program:
Political Science
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 22, 2019
Committee Members:
  • Bruce A Desmarais, Jr., Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Bruce A Desmarais, Jr., Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Burt Monroe III, Committee Member
  • Michael J Nelson, Committee Member
  • David Russell Hunter, Outside Member
  • Text Analysis
  • Congress
  • American Politics
  • Bureaucracy
  • Legislation
Over the past decade, Congress scholars have increasingly benefitted from the confluence of open government efforts to make vast amounts of government documents available online, and the development of computational resources powerful enough to analyze them at scale. In this dissertation, I introduce three complementary computation methods for analyzing legislative text, and apply them to a newly collected corpus of U.S Congressional bills introduced between 1993 and 2016. I do so in service of substantive contributions to the study of bureaucratic politics, lawmaking, and productivity in the U.S. Congress. In the first chapter, I show how partisan views on the scope of government permeate the placement the strategic use of constraints on the bureaucracy. In the second chapter, I attempt to characterize one dimension separating serious policymaking efforts from position taking legislation in the inclusion of legal details in legislation. And in the third chapter, which is joint work with Andreu Casas and John Wilkerson, we show how accounting for hitchhiker bills in the U.S. Congress reveals a more inclusive and productive lawmaking process. This dissertation also introduces a new corpus of congressional bill provisions, and an open sources statistical software package implementing the methods it introduces.