When things really happen : the role of reauthorizations in the process of policy change
Hall, Thad Edward
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Over the past half-century, the use of temporary authorizations - authorizations of funding or operations that expire at a given point - has proliferated. Congress began using temporary authorizations as a control mechanism in the 1960s, in an effort to gain effective oversight control over the military. Later in the decade, many scholars came to think that temporary authorizations gave authorizing committees leverage over appropriators in the fight over how much money various programs should receive. By the end of the decade, this mechanism was being used across the domestic and international policy domains. Using data for the years 1970 to 1994, I test whether temporary authorizations do in fact increase program oversight or influence the level of funding that public programs receive. The results of several multi-variate analyses show that temporary authorizations do not improve the level of funding that a program receives. Additionally, the analyses show that temporary authorizations do not facilitate ex post oversight - committees hold hearings at a relatively consistent level over time. However, temporary authorizations do facilitate ex ante oversight by opening up the legislation governing the program for adjustment. If temporary authorizations do not facilitate oversight or improve the level of funding a program receives, why does Congress use this mechanism? In chapter 3, I argue that temporary authorizations serve as a control mechanism for creating a stable policy environment by channeling policy change into discrete times when the authorization expires. By having reauthorizations, members of Congress can be assured that deals that have been struck in the legislative bargaining process will remain in place for the length of the authorization. The results of several multi-variate analyses show that temporary authorizations do serve in large measure to determine when legislative policy change does occur. Data show that the expiration of an authorization is the strongest factor in determining when legislative change will occur. This factor is more powerful than other factors such as the volume of hearings held or the amount of media coverage that is conducted. These findings show how temporary authorizations serve to allow Congress to control its internal and external environments by channeling the times during which policy change occurs.