This paper assesses the strategic use of time by federal governments in bicameral systems. We argue that a governing majority takes the potential future composition of the second chamber into account and anticipatively manipulates the speed of legislation. In particular, if the federal government fears to lose control over the second chamber the government strategically accelerates the legislative process in the first chamber. On the contrary, if the federal government hopes to gain control over the second chamber the government strategically delays the legislative process in the first chamber.
We test our argument in Germany’s symmetric and asymmetric bicameralism analyzing 1.995 bills presented by the federal government from 1998 to 2013. As expected, the results show that legislation presented by the federal government takes shorter once the government fears to lose control over the second chamber. If the government expects to gain control over the second chamber, then the legislative process takes longer. This general empirical pattern also occurs in asymmetric bicameralism but the effects are less pronounced.
The findings have implications for bicameral bargaining in general. Instead of strategically changing the substance of bills in anticipation of second chamber approval, a federal government can strategically manipulate legislative timing.
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