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How Does Congress Oversee Administrative Agencies?

Administrative agencies are often perceived as free agents with minimal oversight. Professor Christopher Walker explains that Congress actually closely monitors agency activities and expenditures. Each agency is overseen by a specific Congressional committee and important agency staff must be confirmed by the Senate. This ongoing partnership holds agencies accountable for their policies. https://youtube.com/watch?v=U-FC_14NgXo


You'll often hear the federal agencies, they get power from Congress and they just run wild. They do whatever they want. That's a really simplistic and misleading view of the interaction between federal agencies and Congress. Congress plays a substantial oversight role of federal agencies. Congress has committees, standing committees over every agency, where they review what the agency's doing. If they hear concerns from constituents or on the news about an agency doing something they think is not the proper policy approach or isn't following the law, they call to hold a hearing. Or Congress subpoenas documents from the agencies. Or they depose agency officials. So Congress plays this very important oversight role of looking at what federal agencies are doing, of responding to constituent concerns. Another way that Congress plays an important oversight role is that every year they go through an appropriations process. They negotiate with the President a budget, and they pass appropriations legislation that gives the funding to federal agencies to continue to do what they're commanded to do by statute. Congress also plays a role in confirming the heads of agencies. The President nominates individuals, the leader of each agency. Congress, or better said, the Senate, confirms them. They hold confirmation hearings. They make sure that that candidate is qualified, is responsible, and you'll see that through the confirmation process they actually extract compromises from the agency. When we think of the role between federal agencies and Congress, it's a partnership. They're working on a daily basis. Staffers and members of Congress are communicating often with federal agencies to address what they're doing, and they have the power of the purse and the power of confirmation in order to kind of rein in how federal agencies act.

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