The Politics of Shared Power: Congress and the Executive

The Politics of Shared Power: Congress and the Executive

The Politics of Shared Power: Congress and the Executive

The Politics of Shared Power: Congress and the Executive

Excerpt

To study one branch of government in isolation from the others is usually an exercise in make-believe. Very few operations of Congress and the presidency are genuinely independent and autonomous. For the most part, an initiative by one branch sets in motion a series of compensatory actions by the other branch--sometimes of a cooperative nature, sometimes antagonistic. Like tuning forks when struck, the branches trigger complementary vibrations and reverberations.

Even a study on executive-legislative relations, if narrowly construed, is a contrivance. Congress and the presidency function within a political environment that consists of the judiciary, the bureaucracy, independent regulatory commissions, political parties, state and local governments, interest groups, and foreign nations. This book concentrates on the intersection where congressional and presidential interests converge. Despite the heavy traffic, head-on collisions are rare. Instead, individual drivers merge safely at high speeds. After passing through an elaborate cloverleaf, they exit to prepare for future exchanges. Standing in the midst of this intersection gives one the impression of anarchy and chaos, but distance and perspective bring a sense of order and purpose.

Although major personalities and pivotal events make their impacts, institutional patterns persist. The 1976 election of Jimmy Carter to the presidency, accompanied by Democratic majorities in each house of Congress, did not by itself ensure a constructive and effective partnership between the executive and legislative branches. Party leadership and affiliation could not bridge the deep divisions existing then or the more enduring disagreements on policy goals and constitutional duties.

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