Congressional Agency Control: The Impact of Statutory Partisan Requirements on Regulation

Daniel E. Ho


Presidential and congressional influence over regulatory agencies forms a central topic in the study of bureaucratic politics and administrative law. One mechanism of congressional control consists of formal constraints on the president's appointment power: enabling statutes for independent regulatory commissions often cap the number of same-party (party-line) commissioners a president may appoint, forcing presidents to appoint "cross-party" commissioners. This paper provides the first systematic empirical evidence of the impact of partisan requirements. I present evidence from a new dataset of published adjudications and rulemakings in the Federal Communications Commission from 1965-2006. This dataset is the largest and most complete ever assembled, documenting 94,693 votes by 46 commissioners in 17,879 adjudications and rulemakings. Using a Bayesian multilevel ideal point model for mixed ordinal votes, I find that partisan requirements may have considerable effects on substantive policy outcomes. The evidence squarely rejects theories of presidential dominance in the appointments game. But effects are in part unanticipated: evidence suggests that after 1980, cross-party appointees are even more extreme than party-line appointees, pointing to a sharp rupture in Senatorial deference in the 1980s.

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