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Appointee vacancies in US executive branch agencies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 September 2020

William G. Resh*
Affiliation:
Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Gary E. Hollibaugh Jr.
Affiliation:
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Patrick S. Roberts
Affiliation:
School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, Arlington, VA, USA
Matthew M. Dull
Affiliation:
School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, Arlington, VA, USA
*
*Corresponding author. E-mail: wresh@usc.edu

Abstract

We analyse United States presidential appointee positions subject to Senate confirmation without a confirmed appointee in office. These “vacant” positions are byproducts of American constitutional design, shaped by the interplay of institutional politics. Using a novel dataset, we analyse appointee vacancies across executive branch departments and single-headed agencies from 1989 to 2013. We develop a theoretical model that uncovers the dynamics of vacancy onset and length. We then specify an empirical model and report results highlighting both position and principal–agent relations as critical to the politics of appointee vacancies. Conditional on high status positions reducing the frequency and duration of vacancies, we find important principal–agent considerations from a separation of powers perspective. Appointee positions in agencies ideologically divergent from the relevant Senate committee chair are vacant for less time than in ideologically proximal agencies. Importantly, this relationship strengthens as agency ideology diverges away from the chair and towards the chair’s party extreme.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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