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Choosing Strategies to Control the Bureaucracy: Statutory Constraints, Oversight, and the Committee System

Kathleen Bawn
Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization
Vol. 13, No. 1 (Apr., 1997), pp. 101-126
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/765129
Page Count: 26
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Choosing Strategies to Control the Bureaucracy: Statutory Constraints, Oversight, and the Committee System
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Abstract

Congress can exert control over regulatory agencies either through oversight or through statutory control provisions that establish agency structure and process. Each strategy has advantages and disadvantages, and each is employed in varying degress in different policy areas. Although decisions about oversight and statutory control are separate, they are not independent. Plans to engage in ex post oversight make the benefits of statutory control less compelling and vice versa. In this sense, statutory control and oversight can be viewed as "substitutes" in the "production" of a controlled bureaucracy. From a legislator's point of view, the benefits of the two strategies depend on the policy area, the political environment, and the legislator's position within Congress. These exogenous factors determine a legislator's ideal level of each control strategy. Considering the two types of control in a single model leads to the finding that legislators who are members of the committee with jurisdiction over the agency prefer a lower level of statutory control than nonmembers. The difference occurs because the costs of oversight are lower for committee members. This prediction is tested using data from two bills that delegated policy decisions to the EPA.

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