Bureaucratic Autonomy in the U.S. Separation of Powers: Evidence from Cabinet Departments

Public Organization Review, March 2016, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 139–151

20 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2017

See all articles by Anthony M. Bertelli

Anthony M. Bertelli

New York University - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; Bocconi University - DONDENA - Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics

Date Written: March 1, 2016

Abstract

Theories of delegation posit that politicians have the incentive to decrease discretion when ideological conflict with an administrative agency increases. Yet agencies can use their expertise to appropriate informational benefits from delegation helping to increase bureaucratic autonomy. Such theories only indirectly address the impact of ideological conflict on bureaucrats’ perceptions about the extent of the discretion they are afforded on the job. Does the perception of discretion by bureaucrats depend on ideological conflicts between the legislative and executive branches? Statistical results from dynamic panel models provide evidence that that closer ideological alignment with the U.S. Congress than the president increases perceived discretion; that a negative relationship emerges between confirmation times and perceived discretion, but a small and opposite relationship exists among supervisory levels; that variance in the ideological portfolio of cabinet secretaries decreases perceived discretion overall, but has no effect on supervisory cadres; and that divergence between the goals and legal context of an agency and the president’s policy orientation are associated with lower perceived discretion.

Keywords: bureaucratic discretion, delegation, presidential appointments

JEL Classification: H11, H83

Suggested Citation

Bertelli, Anthony M., Bureaucratic Autonomy in the U.S. Separation of Powers: Evidence from Cabinet Departments (March 1, 2016). Public Organization Review, March 2016, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 139–151. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3014212

Anthony M. Bertelli (Contact Author)

New York University - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service ( email )

The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street, Second Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States

Bocconi University - DONDENA - Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136
Italy

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