Political scientists, according to Berman and Murphy (1999) cite seven of the major influences on the Congress members’ decision to vote on a specific bill, briefly enumerated and described below.
The first is personal views. A Congress member vote according to his own preferences and convictions, thereby risking his political future. The second is the views of his constituents. Members visit their districts conduct surveys to gauge the electorate’s reaction toward a specific bill. When he believes that his constituents do not have strong views or are indifferent, he will use his own judgment. The third influence is party affiliation. For many Congress members, his party’s position on an issue is an important consideration, so that they would rather stick to it than risk sanctions. Where the President is also a party member, such party loyalty is all the more compelling. The fourth influence is the Presidency. When the President badly needs Congressional support on an administration bill of high importance, he may ask for a direct assurance from a Congress member. Failure to support the President can carry sanctions in various ways including the withholding of discretionary funds for his district. The fifth influence is interest groups. An interest group is an association of individuals or organizations, usually formally organized, that on the basis of one or more shared concerns, attempts to influence public policy in its favor (interest group). They often lobby quite intensely on key issues of importance to them by visiting and talking to legislators. Their strategies can also include generating grass-roots support for their cause thus engendering added pressure on their target Congress members. The Congressional staff, the sixth influential group, exert their power through their activities in organizing hearings, doing research, drafting and amending bills, preparing reports, and interacting with the media, interest groups, and the constituents. With their expertise, they can be quite persuasive in making legislators vote in favor of bills that they prefer.