Bureaucratic Capacity in the Administrative Presidency

48 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2022 Last revised: 2 Nov 2022

See all articles by Nicholas Bednar

Nicholas Bednar

University of Minnesota Law School

Date Written: November 1, 2022


All presidents seek to implement their priorities through administrative policymaking. To create policy, presidents must control agency agendas, and agencies must have workforces capable of producing policy. While the administrative-presidency literature has studied the importance of control, it often neglects capacity. I theorize that presidents have an easier time completing their agendas in higher capacity agencies but only when they exercise sufficient control over these agencies. Analyzing over 6,000 rulemakings in three administrations, I find that presidents initiate a greater number of rulemakings in higher capacity agencies, and higher capacity agencies complete their rulemakings faster than lower capacity agencies. However, the effect of capacity wanes as presidential control decreases. In sum, both control and capacity are necessary conditions for policymaking success. For scholars, these findings demonstrate the importance of incorporating capacity into theories of presidential control. For political institutions, they illustrate the benefits of considering capacity during the policymaking process.

Keywords: Bureaucratic Politics, Presidency, Rulemaking, Bureaucratic Capacity

Suggested Citation

Bednar, Nicholas, Bureaucratic Capacity in the Administrative Presidency (November 1, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4029054 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4029054

Nicholas Bednar (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

United States

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