Government without Passing Laws: Congress' Nonstatutory Techniques for Appropriations Control

By Michael W. Kirst | Go to book overview

IV.
Why the Appropriations Committees Employ Nonstatutory Techniques

INTRODUCTION

There are many areas of policy and administration the appropriations committees want to control but where statutory regulations would be impossible or inappropriate. Indeed the main impetus for extralegal devices is derived from their immunity from a point of order. Such controls can be employed where Congressional rules prohibit statutory regulations.1 Moreover, statutory provisos that attach conditions to the expenditures of funds cannot be adapted to many situations the committee wants to control. In short, nonstatutory devices have a unique role to play in Congressional oversight -- a role that no other technique is capable of filling.2

In addition to this unique role Congress often prefers to use nonstatutory techniques even where statutory regulation is feasible. Evidence of this preference for nonstatutory controls is compiled mainly from interviews with appropriations committee members and committee staff. Nevertheless, there are examples in the hearings as Professor Huzer observes in The Purse and the Sword: "Even so, the expenditure of public funds for military purposes is not 'foot loose and fancy free.' Many controls which might have been included in the statute are contained, instead, in understandings between members of the Appropriations Committees and officials of the Defense Department.... An officer suggesting some statutory language was once interrupted by a Senator who said, 'Well, I do not think it is necessary to put in those words. If we just in-

____________________
1
This assertion is based in part on the unanimous responses of House and Senate Appropriations Committee members and their staffs.
2
A subsequent section of this chapter will demonstrate the high frequency of nonstatutory techniques.

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