AMERICAN POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY WORKSHOP
Abstract: Can legislatures effectively check unilateral executive power? One prominent and counterintuitive finding in previous work is that executives pursue unilateral strategies less often under divided government. We consider how legislatures’ ability to retaliate against executives influences unilateralism under inter-branch conflict, arguing that it is conditional on the policymaking capacity of legislatures. When polarization is high and majorities are marginal, executives are freer to act unilaterally given the difficulties legislatures have in statutorily responding to orders. Unilateralism is also more likely when legislatures lack non-statutory means of punishment, such as regulatory review. In one of the largest comparative analyses of executive unilateralism, we use a new dataset of 24,232 executive orders issued in the U.S. states between 1993-2013 to evaluate our theory and find strong support for our predictions. These results provide insights into how legislative policymaking capacity can influence the functioning of separation of powers systems.
Sharece Thrower is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on the ways in which legislatures and the judiciary constrain the use of executive power manifested through various policy instruments such as executive orders, signing statements, rulemaking, and regulatory review. Her scholarship has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, and Presidential Studies Quarterly. Currently, she is working on projects examining the influence of legislative capacity on executive unilateralism, the duration of executive policymaking, and theory-testing models of delegation with a newly developed measure of statutory discretion. Prior to joining Vanderbilt University, she served on faculty in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh from 2013 to 2016. She received her B.A. from The Ohio State University in 2008 and her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2013.