Villalobos, Jose DeJesus (2009-05). Presidential-bureaucratic management and policy making success in congress. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Presidential policy making in Congress is a lengthy, difficult process that involves developing a policy initiative, proposing it to Congress, and winning the legislature's support. Recent empirical findings indicate that, although centralizing the policy making process eases a president's managerial burdens, it may also decrease the likelihood of presidential policy success in Congress. Alternatively, decentralizing the process increases the likelihood of policy success, but constrains the president's discretion over policy substance and incurs greater administrative burdens in the form of managing differing viewpoints, contradictory interests, and increased information flow. Such findings present an intriguing puzzle: how can presidents balance their managerial and information needs and costs to maximize their policy success in Congress? Solving this presidential dilemma can have substantial payoffs for the White House. I argue that agency input provides presidents with a degree of bureaucratic expertise and objectivity, process transparency, and agency support, which imbues presidential proposals with bureaucratic legitimacy and aids their passage into law. To test my hypotheses, I conduct a series of empirical analyses of pooled cross-sectional logistic regression models using a dataset on presidential legislative proposals over the period of 1949-2007. I find that agency input and presidential signaling are key components to increased presidential policy success in Congress. I also find that the employment of agency input for policy development decreases the number of changes made to the substance of a presidential initiative from its proposal stage to its passage into law. Because the substance of a proposal matters, sending a stronger signal for a proposal developed with agency input should have a stronger, positive influence on legislative success. To explore this possibility, I also incorporate the role that voluminous presidential signaling plays at high levels of agency input and find that it has a particularly potent, positive influence on legislative success and on lowering the extent of change to policy substance in the Senate. In light of these findings, I prescribe a new policy making strategy with agency input at its core. My conclusions should also provide an impetus for scholars to reconsider conventional wisdom regarding presidential-bureaucratic management and legislative policy making.

publication date

  • May 2009