Congress and the Unilateral Presidency: On the Constraints Imposed by Gridlock and Divergence from the Majority Party Median

Ashton, Henry, Government - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Jenkins, Jeffery, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

This paper develops a theory of executive unilateralism where ideological divergence between Congress and the executive influences variation in executive orders in both the pre- and post- World War II periods. Specifically, this research effort investigates the capacity of gridlock, operationalized as the ideological distance between the left and right veto pivots (Krehbiel 1998; Deering and Maltzman 1999) and the ideological distance between the ideal points of the president and the majority party median in Congress (Cox and McCubbins 1993; 2005) to cause variation in the president's issuance of executive orders. In contrast to previous analyses, a multilevel model is used to explicitly model president-level variables and capture variation in the use of orders between presidents. Results of the analysis indicate that while gridlock does not seem to be substantially related to variations in executive orders, there is a negative relationship between the absolute distance between the ideal point of the president and the majority party median in Congress: Congress seems to be both capable and successful in causing the executive to think twice before acting unilaterally in the face of congressional hostility.

MA (Master of Arts)
Congress , President, congressional, presidency, American, politics, political science, executive orders, unilateral, action, gridlock, cartel model, DW-NOMINATE, separation of powers, Cox and McCubbins, Keith Krehbiel, executive power, power to persuade, strategic theory, pivotal actors, veto, veto pivots, executive memo, executive memoranda, congress and ideology
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