Sharece Thrower - American Politics Speaker Series


Friday, October 5, 2018, 9:00am to 10:30am


K262, CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge St.

"Legislative Capacity and Executive Discretion"
 Sharece Thrower, Vanderbilt Unversity.

Click to read an overview of the book being discussed.

Abstract: In this chapter, we show the consequences of capacity for congressional attempts to rein in executive power. We focus in particular on discretion, i.e. the leeway that Congress grants to executive branch actors to implement programs. We argue that the ally principle, a canonical theoretical argument asserting that Congress should delegate less authority to executive actors who do not share its preferences, is conditional on legislative resource capacity.

To test this argument, we use a novel measure of discretion based on the appropriations process. The measure yields a characterization of discretion for more than 300 agencies from fiscal year 1960 through 2013. This time period is one of significant flux in congressional subcommittee staff capacity, which produces variation that we leverage to test our hypothesis. Overall, we find strong support for the idea that appropriations subcommittee staff sizes impact the degree to which presidents and administrative agencies face constraint in the use of their delegated authority. In particular, during times of low staff capacity, we find that ideological disagreement between Congress and the president has no impact on discretion levels. However, as staff capacity increases, we see more constraint during periods of ideological divergence between Congress and the president.

The American Politics Speaker Series (APSS) is organized by Prof. Jon Rogowski and Prof. Maya Sen, and sponsored by the Center for American Political Studies, Harvard Department of Government, and the Harvard Kennedy School. 

This talk is free and open to the public.



See also: Seminar