Recent Grant Recipients

Congressional Research Grant Abstracts, 2019

*PhD Candidate


*Cari S. Babitzke
Boston University, Department of History
Man, Machine, Myth: The Politics of Gun Control in the Twentieth Century US

Firearms advocates form one of the most powerful, highly committed, and mobilized forces in modern US politics and, today, a distinguishing feature of American conservatism. Seeing themselves as the rightful descendants of patriotic Minutemen and courageous Frontiersmen, contemporary American riflemen practice a now widely recognized identity politics on the Right. But this was not always so. This project uncovers the making of a coherent rightwing political identity centered on gun ownership, built out of an idealized version of centuries of American history, nurtured and promoted by the National Rifle Association, and appropriated most effectively by partisans in the Republican Party.


Andrew Ballard
American University, Department of Government
and Spencer Dorsey, Duke University, Department of Political Science
Social Media and Divisive Rhetoric in Congress

Party politics in today's Congress are highly contentious, but we know little of whether this extends to members' public-facing messages. Using a novel set of data and supervised machine learning methods we will analyze the extent to which divisive rhetoric permeates social media messages sent to the public by members of Congress. Further, we will examine whether members of Congress cause divisive rhetoric among the public. Lastly, our project will provide a resource for other scholars. We intend to collect all tweets and Facebook posts posted by members of Congress and make them publicly available in a database.


Rebecca Best
University of Missouri at Kansas City, Department of Political Science
The Double Bind and How Female Veterans are Changing the Face of Congress and the Country

Female veterans are running for office in increasing numbers as their share of the population increases. Indeed, their share of congressional seats is now perfectly proportional to their share of the population. However, they face a double bind that compels them to appeal both to the ideals of military service and to traditional ideals of womanhood. As a result, their campaigns are shifting not only the way society sees the individual veteran candidates themselves, but women generally. This project will use data from Congressional campaign advertisements to evaluate the differences between the advertisements of female veterans and other candidates.


Robert J. Bookmiller
Millersville University
Present Throughout ‘The Creation’: Tom Connally, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Shaping of US Foreign Policy

This project explores the role that Tom Connally (D-TX) played as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair (1941-1946, 1949-1952). From helping draft the United Nations Charter to shepherding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through the Senate, Connally was a key foreign policy actor. While his importance was recognized by his contemporaries, more recent accounts relegate him to a supporting role in shaping American foreign policy during that era. Through archival work, this project will both reevaluate and place more fully into context Connally’s seminal importance in formulating post-World War II US foreign policy.


*Gideon Cohn-Postar
Northwestern University, Department of History
“Mind How You Vote, Boys”: Economic Voter Intimidation and the Crisis of Workplace Democracy in the Late-Nineteenth Century United States

This project explores the crisis of economic voter intimidation in the late nineteenth century United States. Unprecedented mass coercion of laborers by their bosses between 1873-1896 warped how millions of Americans worked and voted. The crisis was eventually stopped by state-level secret ballot laws, but it was made possible by the failure of congressional leaders in the 1870s to define and confront voter intimidation. This failure rebounded on Congress in the 1890s with a flood of contested election cases that overwhelmed the Committee on Elections and forced House leaders to transform its institutions for confronting voter fraud.


*Kevin S. Hooper
University of Oklahoma, Department of History
Seizing Citizenship: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Pursuit of Citizenship in the Antebellum United States

This project centers on how African Americans and Native Americans contributed to discussions about citizenship during the era of the American Civil War. I argue that both groups, by appealing to the federal government in their attempts to improve their position in American society, contributed to the transformation of citizenship from a local or state construct to a federal concern. Although the federal government took a more central role in governing citizenship after the Civil War, I contend that African American and Native American activists played a critical role in laying the foundations for this transition in the antebellum period.


*Clay Silver Katsky
University of Texas at Austin, History Department
Opening Secrets: Congressional Oversight of the CIA, 1975-1988

“Opening Secrets” examines the history of the intelligence committees in Congress. In 1975 Congress investigated claims of malfeasance by the CIA. After concluding that “intelligence excesses” had occurred, Congress passed legislation to increase its oversight of the CIA. This dissertation determines to what extent oversight increased and if changes in intelligence practices followed. My research builds on scholarship that addresses legislative steps taken in the 1970s to protect human rights abroad and adds another layer to the study of the struggle over power between the president and Congress. My work gives context to today’s oversight challenges.


*Joseph Ledford
University of California, Berkeley, Department of History
A Reagan Revolution: The Iran-Contra Affair and American Statecraft, 1981-1993

This project examines the Iran-Contra Affair with a focus on Ronald Reagan's statecraft and presidential power. It explores why Iran-Contra developed from Reagan's foreign policy and how the affair affected domestic and foreign affairs, particularly the reaffirmation of executive power in the twilight of the Cold War.


Ian Ostrander
Michigan State University, Department of Political Science
A Matter of Time: Triaging Executive Nominations in the Post-Nuclear Senate

After decades of endemic delay on executive nominations, Majority Leader Reid took the Senate "nuclear" in November 2013. The strategy, which lowered the cloture threshold to end debate on a nomination to just a simple majority, has long lasting and far reaching implications for the future of the nominations process as well as the evolution of procedure in the Senate. Specifically, the rules force majority leaders to triage nominations in order to preserve floor time for other matters. This may speed key nominations, such as judges, while less important nominations languish. I examine how Senate leaders navigate this new environment.


Jo Boggess Phillips
Independent researcher
Jennings Randolph: A West Virginian with a Hand in U.S. History

During the more than 40 years Jennings Randolph represented West Virginia in Congress, he had a hand in significant legislation which impacted our country. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, Randolph served under every President from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. An evaluation of his work in Congress, his relationships with fellow members of the House and Senate, his roles as committee chairman, and his working relationship with nine presidents will be examined. Through this study, Jennings Randolph's contributions to our country's policies and history - and the inner workings of the Congress will be documented.


Lori Ringhand
University of Georgia School of Law
and Paul M. Collins, Jr., University of Massachusetts
Understanding U.S. Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

This project will systematically examine the role of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process by hiring three law students to update a comprehensive, multiuser dataset, “The Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings Database” (Collins and Ringhand 2013), that was created to analyze every senatorial question asked and every nominee response given at every open public hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee at which a nominee testified. This grant will update the data with information on the hearings of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, and to finalize coding of earlier nominees coded before official transcripts were available.


Annelise Russell
University of Kentucky Research Foundation, Martin School of Public Administration and Policy
Rhetoric Matters: Party Leaders’ Agenda Influence on Twitter

This project pairs a content analysis of Senate leaders’ Twitter accounts with a series of semi-structured interviews to assess how party leaders shape the issues that their parties promote and whether that influence is reflected in the tweets of rank-and-file senators. Party leaders exert unparalleled power over the congressional agenda, but these partisan pied pipers are turning to social media to influence the agenda long before final votes. Leaders’ rhetoric and strategic communications are a valuable source of agenda setting power, yet research has not considered how and when leaders shape the debate and set the partisan tone via Twitter.


Alex P. Smith
University of Florida, Department of Political Science
The Art of Politics: Political Strategy in American Political Development

This project uses theory-building process tracing and comparative-historical analysis of case studies from 1787, 1850, and 1957 to highlight the role heresthetics play in overcoming political stasis. To overcome years of inaction and stalemate, key members of Congress build cross-cutting coalitions capable of passing legislation by enticing colleagues through dimension manipulation and strategic voting. Legislators are persuaded to break from their previous positions and respond to an exogenous crisis that threatens stability of national political institutions. Herestheticians prioritize political feasibility over efficiency; hence, initial policies enacted after years of equilibrium are often narrow in scope and effect.