Beyond party: ideological convictions and foreign policy conflicts in the US congress

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International Politics

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Recent work finds evidence that partisan calculations, not ideological preferences, drive congressional decisions on foreign policy. While legislators support the wars launched by their party’s presidents, they often oppose those by the other party’s presidents. However, it is unclear whether such partisan calculations are limited to a narrow set of security votes or whether they are part of a broad pattern of foreign policymaking in Congress. To examine the importance of partisan versus ideological motivations, we examine the substantive contributions legislators make to, and the votes they cast on, foreign policy measures. Specifically, we collect sponsorship and voting data on amendments that allow Congress to restrict presidential spending on defense programs and foreign aid. In analyzing data from 1971 to 2016, we find that ideology is the most consistent factor that determines whether legislators propose and support spending limits on security-related bills.