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Oversight and legislative activity concerning Pacific Island territories of the United States: a balancing of partisanship and autonomy

Sean A. Cain

Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration, 2019, vol. 41, issue 2, 72-84

Abstract: Five territories of the United States, plus the District of Columbia, send six non-voting delegates to the United States House of Representatives. While these delegates lack a vote to pass bills, they can serve on committees and advance to subcommittee chair, a position that facilitates Island representation via oversight and legislative activity concerning the federal agency with jurisdiction over territory policy. But aspiration to institutional power requires acceding to the partisan rules and norms of the House; hence, a tension arises between territorial representation and party loyalty. Majority parties under unified government minimise oversight of the executive branch in favour of legislative activism, while Island territories value oversight regardless of party power. Accordingly, under unified government, delegates are less likely to serve as subcommittee chairs than under divided government when their party does not control the executive branch. Once chosen as subcommittee chair, they pursue greater executive oversight than a chair with full voting privileges, while exercising party discipline by curbing oversight activity under unified government. This trade-off is an adaptation to empire in exchange for a degree of representation and authority within the metropole.

Date: 2019
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