Congressional Power over Executive Branch Policy Making: Limitations on Bureaucratic Regulations, 1989-2009

by  Jason A. Macdonald

Article Abstract

Research on American political institutions correctly emphasizes the ascendency of presidential power over the last century. Nevertheless, Congress possesses tools to influence how the executive branch shapes public policy. I examine how the use of limitation riders in appropriations laws allows Congress to affect the substance of bureaucratic decisions when Congress otherwise would not have much traction with the bureaucracy: under divided government. In examining the history of limitation riders that forbade the issuance of bureaucratic regulations from 1989 to 2009, I find support for this perspective. The findings suggest that, although Congress may be at a disadvantage in shaping law and policy relative to the president in many cases, its constitutionally protected spending authority continues to promote its ability to influence the executive branch.


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