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Political Science Bicameralism in Stable Democracies
David Fisk


Bicameralism refers to legislative systems that include two chambers. In presidential systems, both chambers are typically elected directly. In parliamentary systems, typically the first (or lower) chamber is elected directly while the second (or upper) chamber can be appointed, elected directly, or elected indirectly. Although outside the United States, most second chambers are responsible for refining legislation, bicameralism was intended historically to provide representation for the aristocracy in the second chamber and representation for the masses in the first chamber. During this stage, second chambers were dominant within the policymaking process, as they possessed strong veto authority (i.e., the power to defeat bills) over all legislation. As universal suffrage spread, however, the ability of the unelected second chamber to dictate policy to popularly elected governments became untenable. To address this anomaly, governments responded by (1) abolishing the second chamber, (2) granting the second chamber authority over issues relating to federalism, or (3) replacing the power to defeat legislation with the power to delay legislation (suspensory veto authority). After the veto authority of most second chambers was curbed, it was widely believed that the role of the second chamber in the policymaking process was limited and the second chamber was better suited for providing a soft landing for politicians on their way to retirement rather than for substantive policy debate. In recent years, however, as governments have become increasingly reliant on the second chamber as a venue to introduce and debate legislation within a less partisan atmosphere and as second chambers have become increasingly more willing to defeat government legislation, debate over whether or not this blanket rejection of the influence of second chambers is justified has sparked a resurgence of interest in these bodies. This debate has also found its way into the political discourse as several governments debate reform, which would balance the ability of elected government majorities in the first chamber to pass their legislative agenda while protecting crucial policy refinement functions and expertise found in the second chamber. while the idea of abolishing the second chamber is sometimes raised by political parties who are underrepresented in the second chamber, with the exception of Ireland, abolition is not currently being seriously considered by governing parties in most stable democratic systems.

General Overviews

Given a focus on chambers that are (1) elected directly and (2) possess strong veto authority, most resources (including textbooks) focus primarily on the role and function of governments in the first chamber rather than the second chamber. Overviews of bicameralism can be found in Bradbury and Crain 2004 and Uhr 2008, while a discussion of the historical foundations of modern bicameralism can be found in Tsebelis and Money 1997. Norton 2004 highlights the difficulties in determining what actually constitutes a second chamber, while Patterson and Mughan 1999 and Russell 2001 outline the functions that second chambers typically perform.

Reference Resources

The emphasis on governments in the first chamber can also extend toward finding basic information regarding second chambers (i.e., partisan composition, electoral results, etc.). The European Journal of Political Research provides easy access to election material relating to second chambers throughout the world.


No journals are dedicated specifically to the study of bicameralism. There are, however, journals that deal specifically with legislative studies, including Legislative Studies Quarterly and the Journal of Legislative Studies, which speak to the issue of bicameralism with some regularity.

Why Bicameralism?

Lijphart 1999 notes the most widely cited justification of bicameral legislative institutions (as a method to provide formal representation for the subunits within a political system), highlighting the strong correlation between federalism and the presence of bicameral legislative institutions. Russell 2001 expands this discussion of the justifications of bicameralism to focus on the basic functions that second chambers serve. These functions include (1) representing a different set of interests than the first chamber (e.g., states in the United States, Länder in Germany, linguistic communities in Belgium, etc.), (2) providing a less partisan atmosphere for the review of legislation, (3) introducing legislation that can reduce the legislative burden faced by the chamber, and in some instances (4) acting as a veto player that can defeat legislation outright (e.g., the US Senate and the German Bundesrat) (Russell 2001).

Expertise and Bicameralism

Despite previously being seen as a venue for retired politicians to wind down a career in public service, recent research suggests that members of second chambers are taking their policy revising roles more seriously (see Patterson and Mughan 1999) and that an individual member’s area of expertise can play a larger role in swaying debate in some settings than it can in the first chamber (see Crewe 2005). Russell and Sciara 2009 highlights the role that independent legislators play in exerting influence in the British House of Lords, while Russell 2001 contends that the smaller size of most second chambers provides for greater interaction between members that is critical for understanding the revising function of the second chamber. Tsebelis and Money 1997 find, however, that while expertise plays a role in explaining the policy influence of the second chamber, it does not play the primary role in explaining senatorial influence.

Bicameralism and Policy Delay

In addition to providing additional expertise on policy issues, bicameralism has been justified in focusing on its effects on stalling legislation. Buchanan and Tullock 1962 argues that when the two chambers are sufficiently dissimilar, bicameralism protects the majority by making it more difficult for well-organized interests to capture the legislature. Levmore 1992 suggests that bicameralism can provide for the adoption of legislation that has majority support in a more effective fashion than supermajority requirements under unicameralism, while Riker 1992a and Riker 1992b cite protections for minority interests within society by delaying decisions until agreement across chambers can be reached as a justification for bicameralism.

Modeling Legislative Outcomes

The debate over the utility of bicameralism has been greatly informed by the use of spatial models. These works serve to model legislation interaction, seeking the circumstances under which stable policy outcomes (i.e., outcomes that cannot be defeated) can be identified under majority rule (see May 1952) and paying special attention to the policy preferences of the median voter (see Black 1948). These models were initially hampered by the difficulty in locating stable policy outcomes as individual preferences are translated into group preferences under conditions of majority rule in a one-dimensional policy space (see Arrow 1951), difficulties that are exacerbated in models which extend into multiple policy dimensions (see McKelvey 1976). Shepsle and Bonchek 1997 provides an introduction to the social choice literature, reviewing the aforementioned concepts of the median voter and policy stability while also highlighting their applicability to the study of the legislative process.

  • Arrow, Kenneth. Social Choice and Individual Values. New York: Wiley, 1951.

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    Seminal (although quite technical) work underlying social choice theory, which includes Arrow’s proof that in the absence of dictatorial powers, no decision-making rule provides for stable policy outcomes as individual preferences are translated into group preferences.

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  • Black, Duncan. “On the Rationale of Group Decision Making.” Journal of Political Economy 56 (1948): 23–34.

    DOI: 10.1086/256633Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights the role of the median voter in decision making. Work has formed the foundation of formal modeling in the legislative studies literature.

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  • May, Kenneth O. “A Set of Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Simple Majority Decision.” Econometrica 20 (1952): 680–684.

    DOI: 10.2307/1907651Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A formal discussion of the conditions required for decision making via majority rule. May’s conditions required for majority rule have typically been seen as special cases of those identified in Arrow 1951.

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  • McKelvey, Richard D. “Intransitivities in Multidimensional Voting Models.” Journal of Economic Theory 12 (1976): 472–482.

    DOI: 10.1016/0022-0531(76)90040-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Formal model showing that the policy cycling and subsequent instability that is possible in one-dimensional policy models is practically a given in multidimensional policy models. Relevant for modeling legislative decision making given that most legislatures make decisions along several policy dimensions.

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  • Shepsle, Kenneth A., and Mark S. Bonchek. Analyzing Politics: Rationality, Behavior, and Institutions. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997.

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    Provides a very accessible discussion of the papers outlined above in addition to easy-to-follow applications of these ideas in the area of legislative studies.

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Bicameralism and Policy Stability

It has been suggested that bicameral institutions can be critical in providing policy stability (see Modeling Legislative Outcomes). Hammond and Miller 1987 contends that bicameralism promotes stability when coupled with veto authority held by the executive, while Cox and McKelvey 1984; Brennan and Hamlin 1992; and Miller, et al. 1996 argue that bicameralism promotes stability in a multidimensional policy space provided the ideal points of the two chambers are sufficiently distinct (i.e., when chambers are not congruent; see Measuring Second Chamber Influence). Additional work in this field suggests that bicameralism makes legislative rules (see Miller and Hammond 1990) and status quo positions (see Tsebelis and Money 1997) particularly difficult to shift.

Measuring Second Chamber Influence

Following the curtailment of second chamber veto authority, attempts have been made to identify the factors likely to increase the value of adding a second chamber to the legislative process. Lijphart 1999 is the most widely cited measure of the utility of the second chamber in the policymaking process, focusing on the concepts of symmetry and congruence. Second chambers that possess veto authority commensurate with that of the first chamber are considered symmetrical, and the extent to which the composition of the second chamber is likely to mimic, rather than differ from, the first chamber is referred to as congruence. Discussions of symmetry typically focus on the veto authority of the second chamber (i.e., whether or not the second chamber possesses strong or suspensory veto authority), while discussions of congruence typically examine selection mechanisms to the second chamber (i.e., whether or not electoral mechanisms are likely to create two chambers with similar compositions). Second chambers that are symmetrical and noncongruent are considered examples of “strong bicameralism,” chambers that are either symmetrical or congruent, but not both, are considered examples of “medium bicameralism,” and chambers that are both asymmetric and congruent are considered “weak bicameral” systems. Tsebelis 1995 provides a more general theory of institutional power, focusing on whether or not an institutional actor is a “veto player” (i.e., approval is necessary for the adoption of a given policy) as a measure of policymaking relevance. Tsebelis 2002 expands on these ideas, focusing on veto strength as the central variable in finding that second chambers in federal systems often possess strong veto authority.

Asymmetry Reconsidered

Recent research reexamines the influence of chambers possessing suspensory rather than strong veto authority, suggesting that institutional procedures governing the legislative process (i.e., the number of times a bill can shuttle back and forth between chambers, the presence of conference committees and confidence procedures) as well as each chamber’s level of patience over the passage of a given bill provide opportunities for asymmetric second chambers to influence policy debates (see Money and Tsebelis 1992, Tsebelis and Money 1997). Döring 1995, Cox 2000, and Fisk 2011 identify the effects of agenda scarcity and legislative timing on suspensory vetoes (i.e., inability to override suspensory vetoes as the parliamentary session draws to a close) as enhancing the bargaining leverage of second chambers typically classified as asymmetric.

  • Cox, Gary W. “On the Effects of Legislative Rules.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 25 (2000): 169–192.

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    Discusses the effects of legislative rules on policy outcomes; suggests that suspensory veto authority can have the same effect as strong veto authority as the parliamentary session winds down.

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  • Döring, Herbert. “Time as a Scarce Resource: Government Control of the Agenda.” In Parliaments and Majority Rule in Western Europe, 223–247. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.

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    Explains policy outcomes as a function of both the policy preferences of governments and the time constraints under which governments operate. Suggests agenda time scarcity can strongly influence the types of policies that governments seek to enact.

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  • Fisk, David. “Superfluous or Mischevious: Evaluating the Determinants of Legislative Defeats in Second Chambers” Legislative Studies Quarterly 36.2 (2011): 231–253.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1939-9162.2011.00012.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the effects of veto authority and party discipline on the likelihood of government defeat in the second chamber. Finds that governments have incentives to avoid defeats when the second chamber possesses strong veto authority.

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  • Money, Jeannette, and George Tsebelis. “Cicero’s Puzzle: Upper House Power in Comparative Perspective.” International Political Science Review 13 (1992): 25–43.

    DOI: 10.1177/019251219201300103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers an explanation of how policy disagreements are resolved in bicameral systems, suggesting that second chamber influence is a function of institutional rules (e.g., how many times a bill can shuttle back and forth between chambers, where a bill is introduced).

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  • Tsebelis, George, and Jeannette Money. Bicameralism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511609350Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Statistical analysis building upon Money and Tsebelis 1992. Posits that senatorial influence is a function of not only institutional rules, but also each chamber’s relative patience over passing a bill.

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Congruence Reconsidered

Heller 2001 and Heller 2007 reevaluate the contention that congruent second chambers are insignificant, suggesting that the need for second chamber majorities to differentiate themselves from majorities in the first chamber creates opportunities for second chambers to emphasize differences between the chambers. Rogers 2001 suggests that even “completely congruent” chambers improve decision making by boosting the level of information present during decision making. However, McCarty and Cutrone 2006 argues that it not bicameralism that ensures differences between the chambers, but rather malapportionment of electoral districts and other decision-making rules typically associated with bicameralism that reduce the likelihood of congruence.

Party Discipline in Second Chambers

Studies such as Crewe 2005 and Norton 2003 suggest that although members of second chambers value their party label, it may not be as central to members when it comes time to vote on legislation as it is in the first chamber. In many systems in which the second chamber is not directly elected, party discipline is weaker, given the inability of governing parties to deny reselection to members who deviate from the party line (see Shugart and Carey 1995). Shell 1985 contends that within the British system, members of the second chamber often see it as their duty to check governments with large majorities, even if it means defeating legislation proposed by their own party. Although weaker party discipline in the second chamber is expected to boost the frequency of government defeats in the second chamber (see Fisk 2011), it should be pointed out that defeating government legislation in and of itself is not synonymous with policy influence. Studies of the British House of Lords, such as Russell and Sciara 2008, have examined the policy effects of defeats and have found that, more often than not, policy defeats result in policy concessions to the second chamber.

Second Chamber Abolition

During the first half of the 20th century, debate surrounding the role of the second chamber centered on whether or not a second chamber was necessary. Longley and Olson 1991 notes that as parties of the left began to form governments, the willingness of more conservative second chambers to delay legislation as well as the additional time it took to pass legislation through two chambers that are identical in composition led to the abolition of the second chamber in three systems. Although abolition of the second chamber is not seriously considered at the national level in any advanced democracy with the exception of Ireland, Facchini and Testa 2009 contends that political movements at the state level within the United States suggest the idea of abolition of the second chamber remains a subject of debate at the state level.

Second Chamber Reform

Current reform debates lack agreement over issues relating to (1) how to select members of the second chambers as well as (2) the appropriate level of authority that the second chamber should possess. Although reform is frequently discussed, once in office, reform is likely to be low on the list of legislative priorities for newly elected governments (see Laver 2002, Pasquino 2002, Russell and Sanford 2002, Uhr 2002) or may require large-scale constitutional change that lacks the requisite level of support (see Docherty 2002). Successful reforms have required governments to slim down their agenda, but, in some instances, this has led to cries of incomplete or inadequate reform (see Russell 2003).

Effects on Systemic Institutional Attributes

Research investigating the effects of bicameralism on institutional factors includes Shepsle and Weingast 1997 and Diermeier and Myerson 1999 on the internal organization of legislatures and Druckman and Thies 2002 and Druckman, et al. 2005 on government formation and duration.

  • Diermeier, Daniel, and Roger B. Myerson. “Bicameralism and Its Consequences for the Internal Organization of Legislatures.” American Economic Review 89 (1999): 1182–1196.

    DOI: 10.1257/aer.89.5.1182Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Formal model suggesting that unicameralism and bicameralism create different incentives to form a strong committee system.

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  • Druckman, James N., and Michael F. Thies. “The Importance of Concurrence: The Impact of Bicameralism on Government Formation and Duration.” American Journal of Political Science 46.4 (2002): 760–771.

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    Statistical analysis suggesting that bicameralism does not affect government formation but can affect government duration (i.e., the length of time that a governing coalition remains in office).

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  • Druckman, James N., Lanny W. Martin, and Michael F. Thies. “Influence without Confidence: Upper Chambers and Government Formation.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 30.4 (2005): 529–548.

    DOI: 10.3162/036298005X201662Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Statistical analysis suggesting that, despite the lack of a confidence relationship between governments and most second chambers, governments often try to form coalitions that will give them a majority in the second chamber.

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  • Shepsle, Kenneth A., and Barry R. Weingast. “The Institutional Foundations of Committee Power.” American Political Science Review 81.1 (1997): 85–104.

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    Formal model explaining the effects of strong committee authority within a bicameral system.

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Effects on Policy

Research investigating the effects of bicameralism on specific policy outcomes includes Heller 1997 on budget deficits and Ansolabehere, et al. 2003 on the provision of goods. Vatter 2005 discusses the proliferation of social welfare programs, and Lijphart 1977 and Roeder 2005 look at regime stability within an ethnically divided society.

  • Ansolabehere, Stephen, James M. Snyder Jr., and Michael M. Ting. “Bargaining in Bicameral Legislatures: When and Why Does Malapportionment Matter?” American Political Science Review 97.3 (2003): 471–481.

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    Formal model investigating the effects of malapportionment (typically associated with second chambers) on public expenditures.

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  • Heller, William B. “Bicameralism and Budget Deficits: The Effect of Parliamentary Structure on Government Spending.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 22.4 (November 1997): 485–516.

    DOI: 10.2307/440340Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Statistical analysis suggesting a connection between the need to win approval across chambers and higher budget deficits.

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  • Lijphart, Arend. Democracy in Plural Societies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977.

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    Lays out the foundation for power-sharing (or consociational) democracy, which privileges unicameralism as part of the explanation for providing stability within an ethnically divided system.

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  • Roeder, Phillip. “Power Dividing as an Alternative to Ethnic Power Sharing.” In Sustainable Peace: Power and Democracy after Civil Wars. Edited by Phillip G. Roeder and Donald Rothschild, 51–82. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005.

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    Statistical analysis supporting power dividing as opposed to power sharing (or consociational democracy). Contends that bicameralism (along with other institutional factors) can promote stability in deeply divided societies.

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  • Vatter, Adrian. “Bicameralism and Policy Performance: The Effects of Cameral Structure in Comparative Perspective.” Journal of Legislative Studies 11.2 (2005): 194–215.

    DOI: 10.1080/13572330500158607Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Statistical analysis focusing on the effects of bicameralism on social welfare expenditures in advanced industrial systems.

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Case Studies

Discussion of second chambers remains relatively rare in relation to the role that the governing coalition in the first chamber tends to receive. The following subsections highlight the functions that the second chamber performs within each political system. In most instances, resources include information regarding composition, authority, selection mechanisms, internal processes, and reform debates within each system.

United Kingdom and Ireland

Materials on the British second chamber, the House of Lords, are much easier to obtain than information on its Irish counterpart, the Seanad. Bagehot 2009 outlines the constitutional connection between the monarch and parliament within the British system. More recent works such as Shell 1992, Shell and Beamish 1993, and Shell 1999 examine the evolution of the House of Lords prior to the 1999 reforms, while Russell 2003 looks at the changes that came after. Gallagher and Weeks 2003 provides an account of the complicated system for selecting members of the Irish Seanad, while Elections Ireland provides a useful resource for obtaining election results within the Irish parliament. A discussion of the Irish system as well as a committee report on reforming the second chamber is also available from the Irish Parliamentary Office (see the Report on Seanad Reform). Despite previously supporting reform rather than abolition, the current Fine Gael/Labour government has proposed a referendum on abolishing the Seanad in their coalition agreement (see Government for National Recovery 2011–2016.

Continental Europe

The lion’s share of research on continental European second chambers centers on the German second chamber, the Bundesrat, and the central role it plays in not only German politics but also European politics (see Thaysen 1994 and König 2001). Six continental European systems are included within a series of nine case studies found in Patterson and Mughan 1999, with additional information on the French case augmented by Tsebelis and Money 1997. Literature on the role of the Belgian Senate both prior to and after political reforms enacted in 1995 can be found in Fitzmaurice 1996 and in materials provided by the Belgian Senate. Recent research such as König, et al. 2007 also suggests that decision-making processes within the European Union can be effectively considered bicameral.

  • Fitzmaurice, John. The Politics of Belgium: A Unique Federalism. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996.

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    Examines the evolving role of the Senate during reform projects that resulted in Belgium becoming a federal state.

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  • König, Thomas. “Bicameralism and Party Politics in Germany: An Empirical Choice Analysis.” Political Studies 49 (2001): 411–437.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9248.00319Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Game theoretic model showcasing how bicameralism functions within the German system during times of divided government (i.e., when the Bundestag and the Bundesrat are controlled by different majorities) as well as unitary government (i.e., when the same parties control both chambers).

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  • König, Thomas, Lindberg, Bjorn, Lechner, Sandra, Pohlmeier, Winfried. “Bicameral Conflict Resolution in the European Union: An Empirical Analysis of Conciliation Committee Bargains.” British Journal of Political Science 37 (2007): 281–312.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0007123407000142Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of the conciliation procedure within the European Union building on literature that suggests that the institutional relationship between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament can be considered bicameral.

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  • Patterson, Samuel C., and Anthony Mughan. Senates: Bicameralism in the Contemporary World. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999.

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    Includes information on second chambers in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Poland. Also includes useful bibliographies, including further resources on each system.

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  • Thaysen, Uwe. The Bundesrat, the Länder, and German Federalism. Washington, DC: American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, 1994.

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    A short treatise on the role that the Bundesrat plays representing the interests of the German states (Länder).

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  • Tsebelis, George, and Jeannette Money. Bicameralism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511609350Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Statistical modeling used to test the authors’ theory of cameral influence relies heavily on the French Senate. Provides a great deal of information involving the relationship between the French Senate (second chamber) and the French National Assembly (first chamber).

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  • Belgian Senate.

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    Website includes a PDF on the role that the Senate plays within the Belgian system as well as links (in French and Flemish) to additional information on the Belgian legislative system.

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Given that most legislation within the Australian system requires approval by the Senate, Australia’s second chamber is a subject of more research, comparatively speaking, than most other second chambers. Uhr 1999 highlights the evolution of the Australian second chamber and identifies the case for Senate reform in Uhr 2002. Bach 2008 highlights the bargaining process between the Senate and the House of Representatives.

  • Bach, Stanley. “Senate Amendments and Legislative Outcomes in Australia, 1996–2007.” Australian Journal of Political Science 43.3 (2008): 395–423.

    DOI: 10.1080/10361140802267225Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights the amendment procedure within the Australian Senate and examines how senators use their constitutional authority vis-à-vis the House of Representatives.

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  • Uhr, John. “Generating Divided Government: The Australian Senate.” In Senates: Bicameralism in the Contemporary World. Edited by Samuel C. Patterson and Anthony Mughan, 93–119. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999.

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    Case study highlighting the role of the Australian Senate in the parliamentary process. Contains a useful bibliography, including other materials relating to senatorial functions.

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  • Uhr, John. “Explicating the Australian Senate.” Journal of Legislative Studies 8.3 (2002): 3–26.

    DOI: 10.1080/714003923Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Details the role of the Senate as well as its power vis-à-vis the Australian House of Representatives.

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House of Councillors: The National Diet of Japan provides information regarding the second chamber as well as links to other institutional actors within the Japanese policymaking process. The electoral system for both chambers has been the subject of some debate, particularly in the aftermath of court rulings suggesting the way in which electoral districts are drawn unfairly privileges rural constituencies and is unconstitutional. Rosenbluth and Thies 2010 details the role that both chambers play in the legislative process, while Scheiner 2006 suggests the overrepresentation of rural areas within the Japanese electoral system overwhelmingly has favored the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Samuels and Snyder 2001 includes Japan as one of the cases as the authors investigate the role that malapportionment can play in legislative decision making.


Research focusing specifically on the Canadian Senate is difficult to obtain in comparison to information on the first chamber, the House of Commons. Both Franks 1999 and Docherty 2002 highlight the role of the Canadian second chamber within the Canadian parliamentary process and detail recent reform debates.

  • Docherty, David C. “The Canadian Senate: Chamber of Sober Reflection or Loony Cousin Best Not Talked About?” Journal of Legislative Studies 8.3 (2002): 27–48.

    DOI: 10.1080/714003922Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Details recent attempts to reform the Senate while outlining the difficulties accompanying any attempt to overhaul the second chamber.

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  • Franks, C. E. S. “Not Dead Yet, but Should It Be Resurrected?” In Senates: Bicameralism in the Contemporary World. Edited by Samuel C. Patterson and Anthony Mughan, 120–161. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999.

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    Case study explains the role of the Senate in the Canadian parliamentary system while outlining the case for reform.

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Central and South America

The legislative studies literature is increasingly drawing on the experiences of legislatures in Latin American systems. Llanos and Nolte 2003 pays particular attention to bicameral systems in the often overlooked Central and South American nations.

United States

Research focusing on the US Senate, although comparatively more plentiful than other second chambers, still pales in comparison with research focusing on the US House of Representatives. Sinclair 1989, Aldrich 1995, and Sinclair 1999 focus on the role that political parties play in structuring electoral choices, suggesting that shifts away from party-centered to candidate-centered campaigns can have critical consequences on how political institutions function. Additional research focuses specifically on whether or not the filibuster is being used differently today from the way that it had been used previously. Binder and Smith 1997 and the Testimony of Sarah Binder suggests that although the filibuster constitutes “accidental” rather than deliberate decision making, the minority party has always used the filibuster to frustrate the will of the majority within the Senate. Wawro and Shickler 2007 contends that the use of the filibuster has not always made agreement unlikely and that, in the absence of cloture rules (i.e., the ability to stop a filibuster), Senate majorities were able to reach decisions more easily than they are today, while Koger 2010 suggests that the ability to use the filibuster to frustrate the will of the majority is dependent upon how the filibuster is conducted (i.e., whether it requires an actual filibuster or just the threat of one) as well as cloture rules (i.e., the number of votes needed to stop debate).

LAST MODIFIED: 11/29/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756223-0003

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