Partisan Watchdogs? The Effects of Polarization on a High-Risk Oversight Agenda. Revise and resubmit [email for draft]
The effects of partisanship on Congress’ ability to legislate have been well-established, but the effects of unprecedented levels of partisan polarization on Congress’ other constitutional imperative, oversight, remains understudied. While there is ample evidence that increased partisanship has affected highly salient investigations of the president, we know far less about how it has affected oversight of the administrative state. I construct a new, independent and non-partisan oversight agenda for Congress based on the Government Accountability Office’s biennial “high risk list” of federal agencies and programs most vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse. I find a lack of partisan effects on Congress’ ability to investigate these high-risk issues specifically, while confirming the effect of polarization on other types of oversight. These results underscore the pluralistic nature of oversight as an institution and suggest that scholars should treat oversight not as a monolithically political activity that invites inevitable partisan position taking but rather consider that different types of oversight require different explanatory frameworks.
Unprecedented Obstruction?: Evaluating Presidential Responsiveness to Oversight in the Obama and Trump Administrations. Under review [email for draft]
President Trump has consistently disdained Congressional oversight and obstructed high-profile investigations of his administration. But how deeply has this president’s bucking of norms affected Congress’ ability to conduct routine oversight of the executive branch? Using an original data set, this paper proposes and presents new metrics for executive responsiveness to Congressional oversight requests, and compares the Trump administration’s provision of agency witness testimony to Congress with the Obama administration’s. I find that Trump provided far fewer federal witnesses of all types than Obama, under both united and divided government. However, one important measure of responsiveness shows that Congress was no less able to procure desired high-level witnesses under Trump than under his predecessor. My findings suggest that the steep and quick decline in routine oversight activity in Congress transcends Trump’s intransigence, and may be due to both chambers’—and both parties’—failure to make oversight a priority.
Getting Their Act Together: Oversight Agenda-Setting in the House of Representatives and the Facilitation of Policy Goals through Public Narrative. Working paper [email for draft]