The Political Process: Executive Bureau-Legislantive Committee Relations

By J. Leiper Freeman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The General Setting, the Immediate Setting, and the Major Participants in Bureau-Committee Relations

At the center of the general public policy-making system of the United States are Congress and the Administration. The latter term conveys a plural notion of the political executive of the United States. It connotes an extensive network heading up to and symbolized by the President, rather than a highly personalized and individualized one-man show. The Presidency is the core of the Administration, a core in which one man is very important and is burdened almost beyond belief, but in which he is also officially accredited with functions which are the products of numerous influential individuals and many forces beyond his own personality and predilections.

The President and his Administration on the one hand and Congress on the other both reflect and shape the gross dimensions of political sentiment in American society. In the broad sense they are the symbols for and the objectives of the two major political parties as the latter attempt to organize and control the government. They are therefore the two great focal points of positive power in our national political system.

Long-standing norms of our governmental structure, reinforced by a century and three-quarters of legal development and interpretation, encourage public activity in policy-making to direct itself toward both these branches of government. Those who are interested in promoting certain political viewpoints find it necessary to press their views upon two organs of government, each with legitimate power. This normative framework is set in part by a legal system of separation of powers and checks and balances between Congress and the Administration. However, the traditional negative view of this system is inadequate for portraying the reality of the situation. Even in legal terms alone the separation is not complete. In order to have checks and balances it has been necessary that powers, instead of being completely separated, be shared to some degree so that each branch could defend itself against the other. Thus the executive shares in the legislative power through the veto, through ability to address and inform the legislative branch, and through the interpretive aspects of the executive function. The legislative shares in the executive power through its ability to grant or to withhold authority, manpower, and resources necessary to the executive function and to inquire into the operations of the executive

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