• Video

The Appointments Clause and Democratic Accountability

Should officers of the United States be selected via political appointment, or by a merit-based hiring process? Professor Jennifer Mascott explores the tension between accountability in these two kinds of appointment. On one hand, perhaps agencies are best staffed with independent, non-political experts accountable to an independent board - but on the other hand, political appointments ensure some degree of democratic accountability to the people. https://youtube.com/watch?v=nA3IVxZodTE


For the past 100 years or so, there tends to be this idea that perhaps agencies are staffed best when they're staffed with independent experts, scientific experts, and that the accountability more comes in this independent board objectively picking people to fill administrative agencies. A contradictory, our conflicting idea of accountability is this idea that the President should be in charge of the Executive Branch, and part of that means the President having a say or the Department Head having a say in who the officers are who staff that Executive Branch. The evidence suggests that that mode of accountability was actually to extend much further down than this idea we have today of expertise, which sounds good in some ways, but at the end of the day, the experts are not necessarily in any direct way accountable back to the people. The Constitution limits Congress to choosing from just a limited number of actors, most of whom are either the President or ah the President's department heads such as a cabinet secretary or the top of another um commission or agency. And by limiting the number of people involved in selecting officers, there's accountability and transparency because the public can see directly who picked the officer. So, there's accountability to pick high qualified officers. There's accountability to make sure that the officers are going to be people who are going to serve the public well because if they don't uh we can trace back who put them in office and hold that individual, that decision-maker accountable. The President, of course, in turn, is accountable to the people through elections. So, not only is the President held accountable through the Appointments Clause, but really, the people are given power and influence when they can vote up or down at the President's next election.

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