Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Christine Neuhold
Chapter 6: Informal Governance in the United States: Capitol Hill Networks
Roberta Haar INTRODUCTION In American pluralist democracy the separation of powers gives both the executive and the legislature responsibilities for making law. The two branches are not forced into the kind of cooperation that tends to be ensured in a parliamentary system. In fact the legislature and the executive often compete with each other even when they come from the same party. Political parties in America cannot force unity among their members and the president does not have control over the careers and advancement of members in the legislature. This means that the president cannot count on support from members of his own party in Congress and congressional members do not take major political risks for the president. To complicate the matter further, the heads of mission-oriented executive agencies cannot be made to support the president or for that matter other key lawmakers. These characteristics of the American lawmaking system are further complicated by a growing complexity in formal lawmaking; today America lacks a standard legislative process in which a bill becomes law. The reality of weak political parties in the United States also means that interest groups play a much larger role as the intermediary between Congress and the people. In most parliamentary democracies political parties take up this function of representation – channelling and aggregating public demands. But in the United States, organized interest groups act as important conduits between the people and their government. The role that interest groups play in the American system adds to its pluralistic...
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