AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article is a summary of Congressional Ambivalence: The Political Burdens of Constitutional Authority. I thank Lawrence C. Dodd, Daniel J. Palazzolo, and James P. Pfiffner for their insightful comments and suggestions.
The Contemporary Presidency: Executive Ambition Versus Congressional Ambivalence
Article first published online: 14 APR 2010
© 2010 Center for the Study of the Presidency
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Volume 40, Issue 2, pages 310–326, June 2010
How to Cite
FARRIER, J. (2010), The Contemporary Presidency: Executive Ambition Versus Congressional Ambivalence. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 40: 310–326. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2010.03773.x
- Issue published online: 14 APR 2010
- Article first published online: 14 APR 2010
Congress's problematic place in contemporary separation of powers arrangements is revealed in its cycles of ambivalence. First, Congress suppresses its traditional legislative processes or delegates power to the executive branch or an independent commission, arguing that its deliberative and representative norms should not flourish at the expense of the “national interest.” Second, after the delegated power becomes controversial or expires, members express implied or explicit regret about the loss of power in myriad ways, such as new bills to curtail or delay the delegated powers, criticism of policy outcomes in oversight hearings, and foot dragging on new executive requests for additional resources. Third, at the next opportunity to recalibrate power on the policy, Congress demurs again and delegation is renewed. Variations on the cycle of ambivalence span decades of policy on military base closures, trade, war, and appropriations, all of which saw dramatic new iterations during the George W. Bush era.