The Politics of Shared Power: Congress and the Executive

By Louis Fisher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Independent Regulatory Commission: Mahomet's Coffin

The independent regulatory commission differs from the conventional administrative agency in two ways: (1) it is somewhat detached from the operations of the executive branch, and (2) responsibility falls on a group of administrators with essentially equal power instead of on a single executive. This independent status provoked Professor Corwin to ask if a commissioner is not in the executive department, "where is he? In the legislative department; or is he, forsooth, in the uncomfortable halfway situation of Mahomet's coffin, suspended 'twixt Heaven and Earth?"1

The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), created by Congress in 1887, is the forerunner and prototype of the independent regulatory commission. Congress modeled the ICC after railroad commissions that had been operating in more than twenty states. Reformers believed that commissions could accumulate more easily than legislators the expert knowledge needed to effectively supervise the railroad corporations. With the railroad industry changing rapidly, the commission form seemed a more flexible instrument for regulation than the enactment of fixed statutes to guide an executive agency. Initially the state railroad commissions functioned as fact-finding and advisory bodies, operating as agents of the legislatures. In no sense were they part of the executive branch. Gradually the commissions

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The Politics of Shared Power: Congress and the Executive
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface XI
  • Chapter 1 - Constitutional Underpinnings 3
  • Chapter 2 - President as Legislator 23
  • Chapter 3 - Congress as Administrator 68
  • Chapter 4 - Bureaucracy: Agent of Congress or the President? 106
  • Chapter 5 - The Independent Regulatory Commission: Mahomet's Coffin 146
  • Chapter 6 - War Powers and Foreign Affairs 177
  • Chapter 7 - Budgetary Control 218
  • Notes 257
  • Selected Bibliography 293
  • Index of Cases 299
  • Index 303
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