American Civil Rights Policy from Truman to Clinton: The Role of Presidential Leadership

By Steven A. Shull | Go to book overview

6
Responses by Congress
and Agencies

This chapter examines the responses of legislative and executive officials to presidential decisions. How do these actors view presidents' statements and actions? Although presidents may help set the agenda and formulate policy, other agents often have the final say on the shape of public policy. Their responses may alter presidential priorities and agendas and the entire public policy agenda. The president does not always take a leadership role; the impetus for civil rights policy may come from these other officials inside government.

Resultant policy may substantially differ from what the president initially had in mind or formally proposed. Even if his ideas gain acceptance, they may be greatly modified prior to or after adoption. Because of the perceived high controversy of civil rights policy, there is a good chance that presidents will not attain all civil rights policies they favor. Yet, because leadership must come primarily from the president, ideologically committed presidents should obtain more of their policy preferences.

The government responses to the president in modifying, adopting, and implementing policies come from Congress, the courts, and the bureaucracy. If the president dominates agenda setting and formulation, modification and adoption are much more under the purview of Congress ( Jones 1984, 116). Congress has many opportunities to place its stamp on, greatly redefine, or reject presidential initiatives. The

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