Edited by Edoardo Ongaro, Andrew Massey, Marc Holzer and Ellen Wayenberg
Chapter 2: Pathways of Policy Making: The Political Dynamics of Intergovernmental Lawmaking and Reform in the United States
Tim Conlan and Paul Posner EXPLAINING INTERGOVERNMENTAL POLICY MAKING Because intergovernmental relations intersect with virtually all fields of domestic policy making in the United States, explaining the political dynamics of intergovernmental policy making is no easy task. It may be characterized by stability or bouts of sudden change, instances of high salience and low visibility, cases of interest group dominance and seeming impotence, bipartisanship here and bitter partisanship there. Take, for example, the enactment and proliferation of categorical grants in the United States. There are hundreds of separately authorized categorical grant programs that address issues ranging from community policing to state adoption services to urban mass transit, with many programs sponsored or supported by Democrats and Republicans alike. Yet, at various points over the past 50 years, this system of categorical aid has come under attack, with hundreds of programs proposed for consolidation or termination in occasional waves of reform. Often these consolidation efforts have been part of a broader partisan agenda involving reforms and cutbacks in federal activity extending well beyond the categorical grant structure.1 The ‘Contract with America’ in 1995 was one prominent example; the ‘new federalisms’ of Nixon and Reagan were others. Yet, at other times, the grant consolidation movement has been advanced by policy and management experts in the intergovernmental arena, such as the Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) and the General Accounting Office (GAO), with few partisan overtones. How are we to explain these wide variations in the political dynamics of intergovernmental policy making...
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