Lion Behrens, Dominic Nyhuis, Thomas Gschwend
Constructive and destructive legislative review: The government-opposition divide in parliamentary oversight

The Journal of Politics, 2022: 85, issue 1, pp. 223-239
ISSN: 0022-3816 (print), 1468-2508 (online)

There is growing interest in the policy impact of legislatures in parliamentary systems. While scholars have shown that coalition parties rely on legislative amendments to police deviations from the coalition compromise, there are notable gaps in our understanding of legislative review, most importantly, regarding the substance of amendments. Introducing the concepts constructive and destructive legislative review, we identify distinct patterns of legislative review by government and opposition parties. Using the notion of collective cabinet responsibility, we argue that coalition parties are bound by informal rules that limit them to the labor-intensive redrafting of bills (constructive review). Conversely, opposition parties take a low-cost approach by proposing to strike out bill sections (destructive review). We provide empirical support for our hypotheses by analyzing an original data set of counterfactual bills from a German state legislature. The results improve our understanding of opposition strategies in legislative review and control mechanisms within coalition governments.