Are Divided Governments the Cause of Delays and Shutdowns?

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We are heading into divided party government in Washington after an unproductive unified Republican period. Will a Democratic House bring even less productivity and more government shutdowns? We use the history of Congress and US state governments for an updated look at what party divisions between the legislative and executive branches bring us in terms of policy output. Patricia Kirkland finds that divided government at the state level increases the chance of budget delays that can lead to shutdowns. But she says some states are perennially late and others that face disastrous outcomes for impasse do get their work done. Benjamin Schneer finds that divided government historically does reduce the number of major landmark laws passed by Congress, but only by a few each term. There are also huge differences across time and presidencies, regardless of partisanship. But both confirm the conventional wisdom that divided government will not help improve our governance. Studies: “Is Divided Government a Cause of Legislative Delay?” and “Divided Government and Significant Legislation: A History of Congress from 1789 to 2010.” Interviews: Patricia Kirkland of Princeton University; Benjamin Schneer, Harvard University

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