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Executive Politics


Executive Politics Pika and Maltese Chapter 6 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Executive Politics

Executive Politics
  • Pika and Maltese Chapter 6

A Pair of Docs
  • Presidents confront a paradox
  • They enjoy considerable formal legal powers and
    head a vast, complex military and civilian
  • But, their ability to direct that bureaucracy
    toward the achievement of the administrations
    policy objectives and program goals is frequently

  • First lets look at how this relationship is
    affected by Congress.
  • Only Congress can authorize government programs.
  • Only Congress can appropriate funds to finance
  • Even presidents who have unified government may
    find it difficult to cooperate with Congress
    because of their differences in constituencies
    and institutional perspectives.

  • In sum, the structure of the federal bureaucracy
    tends to reflect the political fragmentation and
    committee jurisdictions of Congress, which often
    leads, as with Homeland Security, to multiple
    committees overseeing the activities of the same

Another Factor
  • Additionally, presidents deal with career civil
    servants who staff bureaucratic units and
    constitute a permanent federal government.
  • These individuals respond to interest groups,
    congressional committees, and the president.
  • Many, if not most, have been through a number of
    different presidential administrations, so their
    loyalty must be earned by new presidents.

  • Today, the presidents greatest assistance in
    managing the federal bureaucracy comes from the
    Executive Office of the President.
  • This office helps the president define
    objectives, convert them into operating programs,
    allocate resources to the agencies administering
    the programs, and coordinate the implementation
    of the programs within the federal government and
    among federal, state, and local governments.

Factors that Shape Bureaucratic-Presidential
  • There are at least five factors that shape
    presidential-bureaucratic relations
  • The size, complexity, and dispersion of the
    executive branch
  • Bureaucratic inertia and momentum
  • Executive branch personnel
  • The legal position of the executive branch
  • The susceptibility of executive branch units to
    external political influence

Size, Complexity, and Dispersion
  • The scope of federal government activities has
    exploded since 1933.
  • Federal spending in 2010 was roughly 3.55
  • In 2010, federal employees numbered 2.65 million
    civilians and about 1.7 million military
  • One estimate sets the total number of jobs
    associated with federal government programs at
    almost 15 million when the contract employees,
    grant recipients, and state and local employees
    working on government funding are included.

Size, Complexity, and Dispersion
  • The growth in the number of departments and
    agencies has led to overlapping jurisdictions and
    to duplication of efforts in some cases, as well
    as, contradictory efforts in others.
  • There is even a high degree of competition
    between some government agencies.
  • This means presidents must be coordinators.
    Think about the complexity of the relationship
    between departments like the FBI, CIA, NSA, and

Size, Complexity, and Dispersion
  • The activities of the federal government are
    dispersed into every corner of the United States.
  • This makes it extremely difficult for the
    president or his secretaries to keep tabs on
    everything thats going on in the bureaucracy at
    all times.

Inertia and Momentum
  • It is hard to get a new government program
    started, but probably more importantly, its even
    harder to stop or redirect one.
  • Bureaucracies at rest tend to stay at rest, and
    ones in motion tend to stay in motion.

Inertia and Momentum
  • Much of this arises because organizational
    routinesstandard operating procedureskeep the
    department/agency doing what its doing.
  • Additionally, every department has some interest
    group or groups that depend on its existence.

Inertia and Momentum
  • What this means in practical terms is that its
    REALLY hard to cut the federal budget.
  • In 2012 57 of the federal budget will be
    mandatory spending.
  • But, even the remaining discretionary portion of
    the budget is hard to cut because of the all the
    interest groups that are dependent upon the
  • Major changes usually require years to implement
    and can be met with fierce opposition (see Bushs
    attempt to, at least partially, privatize social

Inertia and Momentum
  • What we actually see happen is that over time
    incremental increases in the budgets of
    departments and agencies become huge permanent
  • Bureaucratic momentum works to the advantage of
    the permanent government in place and to the
    detriment of presidents who want to change or
    shrink it.
  • The large number of federal employees makes it
    even tougher for presidents to cut spending or
    programs because of the number of jobs that are
    dependent upon maintaining programs.
  • These things make any type of effort to reduce
    government politically costly.

  • Presidents must depend on both career civil
    servants and appointed officials to run the
  • Before the Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1883,
    these roles were indistinguishable.
  • Presidents could basically run the bureaucracy
    through patronage.

  • The Pendleton Act (and subsequent policies) made
    it so that most federal hiring was/is determined
    by the qualifications of the prospective
  • This placed a powerful limitation on the ability
    of the president to control the bureaucracy.
  • It also led to a clear distinction between career
    civil servants and appointed officials.

  • Outside of the cabinet members, presidents do
    appoint political executives.
  • But their appointments (and subsequent
    confirmations) are highly dependent on many
    things outside the presidents control,
  • Parties
  • Interest Groups
  • The wishes of the cabinet member under whom they
    will serve
  • Congress
  • State and Local party leaders

  • Weve also seen that with each new administration
    the confirmation process has grown longer.
  • Some of this is self-inflicted. For example,
    several of President Obamas appointees had to
    withdraw because of revelations about their
    personal conduct.
  • Once they are there, it often takes political
    executives 12 to 18 months to master their jobs.
    The average tenure, however, is only two years.
  • The high turnover rate makes it difficult to
    develop teamwork and communication within and
    across departments.
  • Cabinet secretaries are consistently having to
    adapt to new assistants.

  • One last point on personnel.
  • The high level career civil servants have
    different time perspectives than do appointed
    executive officials or cabinet secretaries.
  • This means they can have patience when it comes
    to solving problems and implementing policies.
  • This is often in direct conflict with the
    prerogatives of an administration that wants to
    accomplish its goals quickly.

Law Stuff
  • The legal position of the executive branch is
    rather ambiguous.
  • This is mainly due to Congress consistently
    delegating authority to the president that is not
    mentioned in the Constitution.
  • In some cases, such as independent regulatory
    commissions or the Federal Reserve Board, the
    president has no formal power to direct agency

More Law Stuff
  • In other situations, the Constitutions Take
    Care clause allows the president to command the
    decisions of his subordinates.
  • However, he risks confrontations with Congress,
    clientele groups, and individuals affected by the
    administrative units involved.
  • Not to mention that long ago the Supreme Court
    held that the president cannot interfere with the
    execution of the law by subordinates.

The Last of Law Stuff
  • Weve talked about Congress delegating authority
    to the executive branch because legislation can
    seldom be drafted in sufficient detail to cover
    all contingencies.
  • However, Congress also delegates to the
    bureaucracy because it is political advantageous
    to shift difficult and unpopular decisions to
    someone else.
  • The Supreme Courts has cleared these delegations
    as long as they are accompanied by clear
    statutory guidelines.
  • However, this has rarely been followed by
    Congress or by the lower Courts who have been
    asked to uphold it.
  • So, in spite of judicial review, administrative
    officials retain substantial discretionary

  • The federal bureaucracy is susceptible to outside
    forces beyond the presidents control.
  • For some agencies this support is essential when
    they are being challenged by a president who
    ranks them low on his priority list.
  • On the other hand, agencies who are being
    confronted with external criticism and political
    pressure will find it hard to gain any ground
    with a president who worries about publicity and
    political fallout.

  • Agencies rely heavily on the public and Congress
    to justify their existence.
  • Clientele groups can
  • Publicize an agencys accomplishments
  • Defend it against attack
  • In exchange the agency will administer its
    programs with the interest of the clientele group
    in mind.
  • The agency will also consult with members of the
    clientele group when administering its programs.

  • Agencies seldom draft guidelines and regulations
    or award grants without extensive external
    participation and consolation.
  • Additionally, there is often a two-way flow of
    personnel between agencies and clientele

  • Agencies also find it easy to develop strong ties
    to the congressional committees or subcommittees
    that oversee them.
  • Congressional requests for consideration on
    appointments and grants, suggestions on program
    administration, and inquiries on behalf of
    constituents are always given priority.

  • This enables bureaucrats to develop connections
    with committee members which in turn helps the
    agency gain favorable treatment during budget

  • This three-way relationship between agencies,
    clientele groups, and congressional committees is
    often referred to as an iron triangle.
  • In fact, there is fear that some agencies will
    become captured by the interests of one or both
    of the other players.

The Cabinet
  • I have one thing to say about the Cabinet.
  • The president doesnt use it that much.

I Lied
  • Most presidents say they are going to try to use
    the cabinet more once they get into office, but
    they never do.
  • What I mean when I say use is ask for advice
    or seek their help when making decisions.
  • That doesnt mean the cabinet isnt important.

It Was Just a Little Lie
  • Members tend to be the principle spokespersons
    for administration policy in their jurisdiction.
  • They also are the top political executive for a
    department that is deemed important enough to
    warrant cabinet status.
  • In fact, their management tasks may be the most
    important things they do.

OK, Maybe it was More than Just a Little
  • One thing to remember is that cabinet members
    need to have good ties with clientele groups,
    especially those groups that are important to the

ExceptionsWow I Really Lied About This
  • There are some exceptions to this, I dont hang
    out with members of the cabinet rule.
  • These exceptions are those departments which make
    up the inner cabinet.
  • State Department
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Justice Department
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Why might these be a little higher on the
    presidents priority list?

Exceptions AsideSo, Now Ive Said at Least 20
Different Things About the Cabinet
  • These exceptions aside, some presidents may try
    to use the cabinet as a decision-making body
    early in their administrations.
  • But, most eventually abandon this and rely on the
    White House staff instead.
  • Why? Consider the relationship between a rock
    star and his/her groupies.

The Vice President
  • I only have one thing to say about the Vice
  • Historically, the role of the Vice President has
    been very limited.

Appointment and Removal
  • The main thing to discuss here is that
    high-ranking officials are subject to Senate
  • Historically, the Senate gave presidents
    considerable leeway in this, however, today it is
    much more controversial and politically

Appointment and Removal
  • It seems at times, a Congress that is opposed to
    the president will simply block appointments just
  • During Bushs first term it took an average of
    181 days for an appointment to be confirmed.
  • By mid-May 2009 (Obamas first year), 85
    nominated candidates awaited confirmation, 111
    had been approved, but there were a total of 486
    positions that needed Senate confirmation to
    begin with.

Appointment and Removal
  • Presidents can also make recess appointments when
    the Senate is in recess.
  • These must be approved by the end of the Senates
    next session.

Appointment and Removal
  • Removal has been another area of contention
    between Congress and the president.
  • The Constitution is silent on this other than
    when discussing impeachment procedures.
  • The Courts have been ambiguous on it as well.
  • Suffice to say, presidents seem to have broad
    removal powers, but in some instances, the courts
    have held they must abide by particular

Executive Orders
  • Remember what we said bout EOs earlier?
  • Well, thats the formal law surrounding them.
  • However, most presidents issue them without
    considering those guidelines.

Executive Orders
  • They tend to be presidential edicts, legal
    instruments that create or modify laws,
    procedures, and policy by fiat.
  • They have pushed the boundaries of presidential
    power by taking advantage of gaps in
    constitutional and statutory language that allow
    them to fill power vacuums and gain control of
    emerging capabilities.
  • What the heck did that mean?

Executive Orders
  • Reliance on EOs is extremely important when it
    comes to areas where conflict with Congress means
    action cannot be accomplished through
  • Think civil rights issues in the 1960s or
    economic issues in the 1930s.

  • Managing the bureaucracy relies on a set of tools
    presidents have at their disposal
  • Staffing
  • Reorganization
  • Planning

  • As mentioned earlier, the tendency is for
    presidents to use a strong, sizable, centralized
    White House staff to protect the political
    interests of the president, to act as their
    principle policy advisers, and to direct (as
    opposed to monitor and coordinate) the
    implementation of presidential priorities by the
  • As opposed to using The Cabinet.

  • Although, this doesnt meant that staffing for
    each presidency is similar.
  • Lets look at the text on page 287-289.

  • What does this mean?
  • When talking about organizational structure it
    can mean the difference between establishing an
    administrative unit as a department, an
    independent agency, or a component of an existing
  • Where the unit is situated can signal how
    important a president feels it is.

  • Current presidents do need congressional
    authorization to reorganize executive branch
  • This is what was used to create the Department of
    Homeland Security, which was essentially just a
    massive reorganization of several different
    departments and agencies.

  • But, when it comes to reorganizing within a
    particular department or agency, presidents have
    much more leeway.
  • Additionally, presidents have found creative ways
    to use reorganization as a way to achieve their
    political goals.
  • For example, W sought to reduce government
    employment by making at least half of the federal
    jobs subject to competitive bidding from the
    private sector.
  • He also instituted a pay for performance system
    that did not guarantee annual pay increases
    unless the performance of employees met
    particular guidelines.

  • Planning can be defined as
  • Current action to secure future
    consequencesAaron Wildavsky
  • Presidents need foresight in anticipating
    problems and developing solutions.
  • However, long range planning rarely happens in
  • Take the current levels of government spending
    for example.
  • Also consider Bushs efforts at reforming social
    security, previous administrations efforts at
    regulating the financial industry, or developing
    a comprehensive energy policy.

  • Based on what weve covered do you think the
    president can lead the executive branch?
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