Coordination Committees as Parliamentary Agenda Setters (CoCoPAS)
Topic and Aims
Agenda setting, i.e. the decision which topics are debated and decided upon in the political discourse, is a crucial element of representative democracy. Agenda setting shapes political processes and behavior, affects the distribution of power between various actors, and influences political competition and outputs. As parliaments are a central arena of political competition, setting the parliamentary agenda is particularly relevant. In many parliaments, the agenda is set by specific coordination committees, such as the Council of Elders in the German Bundestag or the Rules Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Despite their importance, we have only limited comparative information on the functioning and influence of these committees, typically comprising the president of the parliament, representatives of all parliamentary party groups, and sometimes also chairs of standing committees.
The project “Coordination Commitees as Parliamentary Agenda Setters (CoCoPAS)”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), studies parliamentary coordination committees and their role in about 30 European parliaments. The project aims to provide an overview of the agenda setting regimes of these countries with a specific focus on the role of coordination committees. Descriptively, the project focuses on the composition and resources of coordination committees as well as their internal decision-making rules and processes. Analytically, it investigates whether committee members act solely based upon partisan goals or develop a cross partisan group identity related to the parliament as a whole that affects their decisions.
Methods (and Data)
The CoCoPAS project aims to describe and explain the work and political power of parliamentary coordination committees in Europe. To this end, we collect qualitative and quantitative primary data that are analyzed in a mixed methods approach. On the one hand, we describe agenda setting regimes and the role of coordination committees based on document analyses and a standardized (online) survey. We are particularly interested in the committees’ composition, (internal) decision making rules and resources. The data will be analyzed using various quantitative methods and will be made publicly available. On the other hand, we investigate decision-making within selected coordination committees in comparative qualitative case studies. Based on minutes and expert interviews, we study whether and how different coordination committees succeed in making consensual decisions despite the competing interests of actors.
Societal Relevance of the Project
From the perspective of democratic theory, parliaments are the central arena of political competition, thus the question who decides on the topics to be discussed and decided in parliament is crucial for representative democracies. Nonetheless, we currently know very little about the parliamentary actors responsible for this process and the dynamics that drive their decisions. The CoCoPAS project will yield new insights on these questions, that are directly relevant for understanding political competition in European democracies. Furthermore, its focus on the emergence and effects of group identities in committees link the project to broader debates beyond political science, e.g. in sociology and social psychology.
Comparative legislative research has been a longstanding research focus of Prof. Sieberer and comparative politics at the University of Bamberg. The project directly builds in this expertise. Furthermore, the project is part of a research unit centered at the University of Bamberg’s Department of Political Science that studies the emergence and autonomy of horizontal (i.e. not hierarchically structured) collective actors in various areas of politics. More information on the research unit is available at www.collectiveagency.de.
Related Publications of the Project Team
Euchner, Eva-Maria and Frech, Elena. 2021. "Mandated Representation: Exploring the Consequences of Gender Quota Design on Parliamentary Activity", Parliamentary Affairs (forthcoming).
Hönnige, C. & Sieberer, U. (2011). Germany: Limited Government Agenda Control and Strong Minority Rights. In B. E. Rasch & G. Tsebelis (Eds.), The Role of Governments in Legislative Agenda Setting (pp. 21-37). London: Routledge.
Müller, W. C., & Sieberer, U. (2014). Procedure and Rules in Legislatures. In S. Martin, T. Saalfeld, & K. W. Strøm (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Legislative Studies (pp. 311–331). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sieberer, U. (2006). Agenda Setting in the German Bundestag. A Weak Government in a Consensus Democracy, German Politics 15(1), 49-72.
Sieberer, U. & Höhmann, D. (2017). Shadow Chairs as Monitoring Devices? A Comparative Analysis of Committee Chair Powers in Western European Parliaments. Journal of Legislative Studies 23(3), 301-325.
Sieberer, Ulrich/Meißner, Peter/Keh, Julia F./Müller, Wolfgang C., 2016, Mapping and Explaining Parliamentary Rule Changes in Europe: A Research Program, Legislative Studies Quarterly 41 (1), 61-88.