Designing Executive Agencies for Congressional Influence

31 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2016 Last revised: 14 Jan 2021

See all articles by Brian D. Feinstein

Brian D. Feinstein

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Date Written: 2017


Those seeking to restore Congress’s place as a co-equal branch should consider the architecture of the administrative state. Despite increased scholarly attention concerning both the design of executive agencies and Congress’s role in governance, the impact of institutional features on executive agencies’ susceptibility to congressional attention is largely unknown. Leveraging original data on committee oversight hearings, this Article explores the connections between various agency design features and congressional oversight activity. The Article finds that (1) agencies with leaders that are subject to Senate confirmation receive greater attention from congressional overseers; (2) no relationship is apparent between an agency’s creation by statute or executive order and the later salience of that agency to congressional overseers; and (3) independent agencies appear more independent of congressional as well as presidential control, contrary to a conventional wisdom that they tend to reflect Congress’s preferences. Through greater attention to agency design, Congress can create future executive agencies and retrofit existing agencies to increase its influence in policymaking.

Keywords: Agency Design, Independent Agencies, Administrative Law, Committee Jurisdiction, Oversight, Hearings, Administrative Agencies, The Administrative State

JEL Classification: H11, D73

Suggested Citation

Feinstein, Brian D., Designing Executive Agencies for Congressional Influence (2017). Administrative Law Review, Vol. 69, No. 2, pp. 259-89 (2017), University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 778, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 595, Available at SSRN:

Brian D. Feinstein (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

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