American Political Science Review


Regulatory Regimes, Agency Actions, and the Conditional Nature of Congressional Influence

a1 University of Iowa


Political bureaucracies make the overwhelming majority of public policy decisions in the United States. To examine the extent to which these agency actions are responsive to the preferences of elected officials, in particular, Congress, I develop a spatial model of oversight. The most important insight of this theory is that agencies make policy decisions within given regimes and may be constrained by the preferences of different political actors at different times. To test the theory, I collect and analyze data on the monitoring activities of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I find that under certain conditions, the FDA is responsive to the preferences of committees and floors in Congress, but under other conditions the agency can act autonomously.

c1 Professor, Department of Political Science, 341 Schaeffer Hall, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52245 (