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Administrative Law

Agency Self-Insulation Under Presidential Review

Many agencies face not only judicial review but also presidential review, and have self-insulated their decisions in unexplored ways.

Agencies possess enormous regulatory discretion. This discretion allows executive branch agencies in particular to insulate their decisions from presidential review by raising the costs of such review. They can do so, for example, through variations in policymaking form, cost-benefit analysis quality, timing strategies, and institutional coalition-building. This Article seeks to help shift the literature’s focus on court-centered agency behavior to consider instead the role of the President under current executive orders. Specifically, the Article marshals public-choice insights to offer an analytic framework for what it calls agency self-insulation under presidential review, illustrates the phenomenon, and assesses some normative implications. The framework generates several empirically testable hypotheses regarding how presidential transitions and policy shifts will influence agency behavior. It also challenges the doctrinal focus on removal restrictions and highlights instead a more functional understanding of agency independence. Finally, these dynamics suggest a role for courts to help enforce separation of powers principles within the executive branch and also, along with Congress, to facilitate political monitoring by encouraging information from sources external to the presidential review process.