Eleventh Hour: The Politics of Policy Initiatives in Presidential Transitions

Eleventh Hour: The Politics of Policy Initiatives in Presidential Transitions

Eleventh Hour: The Politics of Policy Initiatives in Presidential Transitions

Eleventh Hour: The Politics of Policy Initiatives in Presidential Transitions


Pres. Jimmy Carter issued last-minute rules immediately before leaving the White House, creating frustration for the incoming Reagan Administration. As George W. Bush prepared to cede the Oval Office to Barack Obama almost three decades later, he ordered more than thirty last-minute policy changes, quickly finalizing the rules before the Obama Administration could overturn them.

Presidents are able to bypass Congress and quietly initiate significant policy changes by using the executive branch's authority to alter existing statutes. In Eleventh Hour: The Politics of Policy Initiatives in Presidential Transitions, David M. Shafie analyzes how and why five successive presidents have done so at the end of their administrations, offering important new insights for the growing study of the administrative presidency.

After assessing transcripts of speeches and staff communications, such as memos from the White House Domestic Policy offices, memos from selected regulatory agencies and the Office of Management and Budget, as well as records in the Clinton, Reagan, George (H. W.) Bush, and Carter Presidential Libraries, Shafie also conducted in-depth interviews with administration personnel charged with formulating and implementing the executive rule changes. Based on his research, Shafie explains end-of-term rulemaking as an instrument of presidential prerogative power by mapping its evolution through five recent presidential transitions and exploring its effectiveness, consequences, and implications.

Giving consideration to recent efforts to limit interregnum rulemaking and to overturn specific late-term rules, as well as evaluating the prospects for future presidents to favor this instrument to advance their unfinished domestic policy priorities, Eleventh Hour offers groundbreaking research into the uses of executive power.


On a chilly January morning in 2001, Bill Clinton was outside the National Arboretum near the Capitol Building, publicly reflecting on the environmental legacy of his presidency. the soon-to-be ex-president made few specific references to past accomplishments, focusing instead on what his administration was still doing. Clinton took the opportunity to announce newly adopted epa rules for diesel engine emissions and boasted about the twelve national monuments he had recently created or expanded: “We have saved and restored some of our most glorious natural wonders, from Florida’s Everglades to Hawaii’s coral reefs, from the redwoods of California to the red rock canyons of Utah.” He had no intention of slowing down during his two remaining weeks in office. There would be eight more national monuments and new proposed rules for food safety, energy conservation, and drinking water contamination.

The centerpiece of Clinton’s speech was his announcement of a ban on building new roads in roadless areas of national forests. Acting under a presidential directive, the us Forest Service had spent the previous year conducting a review that produced a plan to preserve nearly 60 million acres. “Today we free the lands so that they will remain unspoiled by bulldozers, undisturbed by chainsaws, and untouched for our children,” he told the audience. As expected, oil, gas, and timber interests fumed at what a typical news report called Clinton’s “aggressive campaign during his final weeks in office to hamstring President-elect George W. Bush as an environmental policy-maker before the Texas governor takes power.” Republicans were powerless to stop the frenetic lame duck activism, even though they had just retained control of Congress in the November election, and their party was preparing to occupy the White House again after an eight-year hiatus.

The timing became a rallying point for critics of the rule’s opponents. the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee called the roadless policy “last-minute manipulation and grandstanding by a man desperate for a legacy.” Focusing on the “last-minute” nature of the final rules and proposals, critics suggested that they were pushed through because they lacked popular support. in his speech at the National Arboretum, Clinton already had an answer to this . . .

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