Reassessing the President's Administrative Powers
Gubb, Jesse Matthew Shron
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CitationGubb, Jesse Matthew Shron. 2019. Reassessing the President's Administrative Powers. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractResearch in the last two decades has established that administrative powers are central to the president’s agenda. My dissertation is a three-paper compilation that answers several remaining questions about how these powers relate to other parts of the political system.
The first chapter, “The Limits to Power without Persuasion,” co-authored with Matt Dickinson, argues that executive orders are imperfect substitutes for legislation. We show that an increase in the number of significant executive orders issued does not correspond to a decrease in the number of legislative proposals the president sends to Congress. A case study of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, which the president created first as a small office by executive order before supporting legislation for a department, suggests that executive orders are likely to be the first move in a policymaking process, because they offer advantages like speed while legislation offers durability and comprehensiveness. Examining the generality of this case, we find that presidents sometimes follow significant orders with proposals to enshrine them in statute. Our research supports viewing orders as a tool in the president’s toolbox rather than a challenge to the legislative process.
The second chapter, “Does the Messenger Matter?,” presents a survey experiment to test whether presidents can influence public support for the policies of their administration by manipulating whether they’re seen as taking the policy action themselves. I find that, in most cases, manipulating whether the president, an agency, or the government is responsible for a policy has no effect on whether survey respondents support the policy. Instead, respondent partisanship is the biggest factor in explaining policy support. In less salient cases, "presidentializing" policy may polarize public opinion by lowering support among those inthe opposite party. The results affirm the importance of partisanship to public opinion and the limited ability of the president to manipulate credit and blame for the actions of his administration.
The third chapter, “How Unilateral is Unilateral Action?,” examines two areas of delegated presidential authority to test whether congressional constraints on administrative power vary by policy domain. I find that in land policy, where Congress gave presidents broad authority, presidents are more likely to create national monuments when Congress is gridlocked, a pattern consistent with a strong theory of unilateral action. In trade policy, where Congress left itself a continuing role by requiring reauthorization of presidential authority, presidents are less likely to issue proclamations when Congress is gridlocked, consistent with a cooperative approach to administrative action. With these cases, I show that presidents do not take executive action in a constant strategic environment, because congressional delegation often determines the limits of presidential power.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41121331
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