Building a Legislative-Centered Public Administration: Congress and the Administrative State, 1946-1999

Building a Legislative-Centered Public Administration: Congress and the Administrative State, 1946-1999

Building a Legislative-Centered Public Administration: Congress and the Administrative State, 1946-1999

Building a Legislative-Centered Public Administration: Congress and the Administrative State, 1946-1999

Excerpt

The constantly growing body of executive or administrative law has become both a necessity to the operation of modern government and a threat to the constitutional function of Congress as the legislative, policy-making branch of the government. --Robert La Follette Jr. (1943, 93)

By 1946, Congress's traditional place in the constitutional separation of powers had been thoroughly upset by the vast growth in the size and power of the federal bureaucracy during the New Deal and World War II. Congress had become a delegator, vesting much of its legislative authority in administrative agencies, and a great deal of the initiative for policy making and budgeting had passed to the executive branch. The legislature, the framers' "First Branch," was becoming more reactive than proactive. But even its capacity to react was sorely challenged by the haphazard quality of administrative processes and illogical state of agency design, as well as by the limitations of Congress's own organizational arrangements. A common theme among its members was that Congress had lost its mission and was consequently atrophying and becoming irrelevant.

The question in 1946--openly asked and discussed--was how Congress could reposition itself in the constitutional framework to protect its coequality, fulfill its legislative and representational roles, and promote institutional revitalization. For example, Senator William Fulbright (D-AR) saw the "basic problem" as "one of combining a strong executive with the maintenance of legislative supremacy" (U.S. Congress 1945b, 20), while Senator Robert La Follette, Jr. (Progressive-WI) shared a broad concern that Congress might "lose its constitutional place in the Federal scheme" (La Follette 1946, 11). Any lasting response would also have to speak to the members' own interests in power, legis-

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