043 Models of legislative voting

We are now in a position to present a model which attempts to integrate the various models in a fashion which incorporates the features just discussed. That model is displayed in Figure 1. The first two steps are the same as the first two in the consensus mode of decision, which I have presented elsewhere. If there is no controversy in the environment at all, the congressman’s choice is simple: he votes with that environment and is done with it. On many bills, for instance, a unified committee reports the bill and nobody opposes the committee position in any particular. If there is some controversy, he subsets the environment, considering only the actors which are most critical to him-his own constituency, his party leadership, his trusted associates in the House, his own policy attitude, etc. — which I call the „field of forces“ which bear on his decision. If there is no conflict among those actors, he votes with his field. I assume, as a legislator does, that if there appears to be no consideration which would prompt him to vote in a way different from that toward which he is impelled by every factor in his field of vision, then there is no reason to think twice. And as I have argued above, this is a beginning to an integrative model which is common to a number of the previous works on legislative voting.

If there is some conflict among the congressman’s relevant actors, he then proceeds to consider his goals, which I conceive for the purposes of this paper as being the three discussed above-constituency, intra-Washington influence, and public policy. But a goal is not brought to bear on the decision if it seems unimportant to him on this issue. It must pass what I have labelled a critical threshold of importance in order to be evoked and relevant to the decision. For example, a congressman’s constituency may have a vague and largely unarticulated opposition to foreign aid. In that case, he would say that there was a constituency opinion on the issue, but that it was not intense enough to bother taking account of.