Sep. 11, 2017

Batten to Launch New Center Focused on Lawmakers’ Effectiveness at Sept. 26 News Conference in Washington

Batten’s new Center for Effective Lawmaking — co-directed by Vanderbilt University — will be introduced tomorrow in Washington, D.C. at a morning breakfast conference in the Rayburn House Office Building.

The Tuesday, Sept. 26, 8 a.m. event — open to journalists, policymakers, academics, Congressional members and staff, and others — with unveil the Center’s data-driven approach to studying the causes and consequences of the legislative effectiveness of members of Congress.

The news conference and panel discussion will be in the Rayburn Banquet Room (2043-2044), located between South Capitol Street and First Street in Washington. Journalists and others are asked to RSVP here. (Contact Greer Kelly,, 434-924-7064 for more information.)

Craig Volden, Professor of Public Policy and Politics and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, co-directs the center with Alan Wiseman, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Political Economy at Vanderbilt.

“A big part of the center’s activities will be focused on public outreach: how we get our information out to the mass public, in addition to the legislators and the media,” Volden said.

While “current public discussions around members of Congress often note their party affiliations or ideological positions, we believe that a focus on who can actually get things done in Congress will be a valuable addition to the dialogue, particularly in today’s polarized environment.”

Speaking at the conference will be U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. Also speaking with be former longtime U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.

They will discuss what it takes to generate legislative accomplishments in Congress today.

“The Center for Effective Lawmaking will be the go-to resource for academics and practitioners who are interested in contemporary lawmaking processes in Congress,” Wiseman said.

“We will aim to bring in current and former members of Congress, and other public figures who interact with Congress to talk about their experiences working with Congress, as well as the possibilities for effective lawmaking in our political environment,” Wiseman said.

One of the main goals of the center is “to develop a collection of scholarly research that’s based on systematic analysis of large sample data and which can provide a best-practices guide for members of Congress and other elected officials.”

The Center seeks to advance the generation, communication and use of new knowledge about the effectiveness of individual lawmakers in Congress. The center will also sponsor conferences and speakers at UVA and Vanderbilt.

A $400,000 grant from the Madison Initiative of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will finance the center for three years. The Center for Effective Lawmaking has also benefited from gifts from the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt and the Batten School.

In earlier research, operating as the Legislative Effectiveness Project (LEP), Wiseman and Volden in 2014 created a massive database that measures the legislative effectiveness of members of Congress by tracking their success or failure at moving their bills through Congress and into law.

The new Center for Effective Lawmaking will absorb the LEP and add three research goals:

  • to identify people who are likely to be highly effective lawmakers before they become legislators,
  • to discover methods that legislators could cultivate to become more effective, and
  • to explore how and when voters are responsive to information about the lawmaking effectiveness of their elected representatives.

Volden’s and Wiseman’s book Legislative Effectiveness in the United States Congress: The Lawmakers won the 2015 Gladys M. Kammerer Award for the best book on U.S. national politics, and the 2015 Fenno Prize for the best book in legislative studies.

Their website is

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Professor of Public Policy and Politics, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Director of the Center for Effective Lawmaking
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