This dissertation examines tools Congress has to respond to a powerful Chief Executive. Specifically, this research uses congressional documents, including hearings and legislation, to trace the histories of 14 agencies that President Reagan sought to eliminate. I analyze the actions Congress took---or did not take---to save, modify, or kill the agencies and examine the tools it used through the lens of retrenchment theory (Pierson, 1994; Hacker, 2005). The project uses congressional hearings in two ways. First, it tallies the number of hearings at which each agency was mentioned between January 1, 1981 and January 20, 1989. The analysis then examines the substance of each hearing, paragraph by paragraph to create a dataset that quantifies the tenor of each comment about the survival of each of the 14 case agencies. The result is a databank of 347 hearings and another of 2,075 mentions of the future of the case agencies. The research found 354 mentions of the case agencies in legislation that was introduced between January 1, 1981 and January 20, 1989. Applying this data to the 14 cases, I find that the number of hearings or pieces of legislation that mention a case agency had little effect on agency survival. What does matter, however, is whether legislation enacted is appropriations legislation or oversight/reauthorization. Agencies that receive appropriations are likely to survive the Administration without modification. Agencies that were discussed at more hearings were likely to be modified because hearings opened up arenas for debate and compromise. The case studies also demonstrated that Congress used a variety of methods to implement its policy preferences. Tools and actions that Jacob Hacker attributed to executive branch use, like drift, conversion, and layering, are used by the legislative branch to save or modify an agency and ensure its survival. Moreover, Congress often uses earmarks and limitations on appropriations to protect an agency from Administration attempts to cause drift, conversion, and layering. Congress can use its constitutionally provided authorities to legislate, oversee, and appropriate executive-branch operations to thwart the designs of presidents who enter office in eras of high presidential power.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 72-09, Section: A, page: 3486. Adviser: John Lapinski. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Pennsylvania, 2011.