Sarah Binder

Sarah Binder is a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and professor of political science at George Washington University.

Recent Articles

Gerrymandering 101

The latest issue of Legislative Studies Quarterly contains a neat piece (ungated, here) by Jason Kelly on the extent to which state legislators strategically use prison populations for partisan gain in redistricting at the state level.  The ingenuity of state mapmakers knows no bounds.

The census data used to redraw legislative districts counts the country’s nearly two million prisoners in the location of their incarceration, rather than their previous place of residence. By drawing these phantom populations into districts that lean heavily toward the majority party, legislators can free up eligible voters from those districts to be distributed among neighboring marginal ones, thereby increasing that party’s likelihood of winning additional seats in the state legislature. An analysis of state senate districts finds that prison populations shift systematically from districts controlled by one party to districts controlled by the other following a switch in partisan control.

When it rains, it pours: More on the Senate

The Forum’s December issue, Governing through the Senate, is now available on-line.  It offers eleven short, accessible pieces on the state of the Senate.   An overview of the issue appears below:

The Senate is often the institutional pivot for political conflict in the United States, so this issue of The Forum focuses on ‘governing through the Senate’. Charles O. Jones considers its inherent peculiarities as the institution meant to ‘go second’ in a separated system; Sarah Binder argues that the modern Senate is moving away from its constitutional role; Frances Lee considers the role of party competition in shaping senatorial behavior; Barry Burden asks about the influence of senatorial polarization and party balance within the bicameral context; and Daniel DiSalvo contrasts partisan polarization with divided government as influences on senatorial behavior. Randall Strahan observes one particular senator negotiating this complicated framework; Wendy Schiller and Jennifer Cassidy consider the dynamics of cooperation (or not) among same-state senators; and Andrea Hatcher contrasts a majority leader who lost re-election with another who won. Ryan Black, Anthony Madonna, and Ryan Owens examine a very private form of senatorial obstruction, ‘blue slip behavior’; Gregory Koger examines what is surely the best-known form of obstruction, the filibuster; Eric Schickler and Gregory Wawro argue that, whatever its collective impact, senators have multiple reasons to protect this filibuster; and James Wallner closes with a substantive realm, budgeting, where the absence of policy action by the Senate is critical. In book reviews, Joseph Cooper uses Matthew N. Green, The Speaker of the House: A Study in Leadership, to think about the study of Congress more generally, and Matthew Green responds; Amnon Cavari reviews B. Dan Wood, The Myth of Presidential Representation; and Philip Brenner reviews Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.

Is the president playing fair during recess? The Cordray appointment

President Obama today will give a recess appointment to Richard Cordray to serve as director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established under Dodd-Frank.  With Senate Republicans vowing to oppose any nominee absent structural reform of the CFPB, a Republican filibuster last month blocked the Senate from securing cloture on Cordray’s nomination.  Because recess appointments last until the end of the “next session,” Cordray’s appointment would last until the end of 2013.