The political origins of the administrative procedure act

March 1999
Journal of Law, Economics & Organization;Mar99, Vol. 15 Issue 1
Academic Journal
For a decade after the passage of the Second New Deal, political leaders and many important interest groups fiercely debated what procedural requirements, if any, should be imposed on the new regulatory agencies. This debate led eventually to the passage of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) of 1946. The purpose of this article is to explain the significance of the various procedural requirements that were considered, and to develop and test a political theory of why some proposals were passed while others were rejected, and why a decade passed before legislation could succeed. Although the APA typically is seen as a codification of individual rights in a system or procedural due process, we argue that to answer these questions requires understanding the policy consequences of alternative procedural reforms. Thus we develop and test a political theory, based on the views of legislators about the proper role of the federal government in regulating business, that seeks to explain patterns of support and opposition to legislative reforms. We conclude that the dominant factor explaining these patterns is support for New Deal regulatory policy, and that the primary explanation for the failure of administrative reform proposals before World War II but their success later was the desire of New Deal Democrats to 'hard wire' the policies of the New Deal against an expected Republican, anti-New Deal political tide in the late 1940s.


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