Independent agencies of the United States government

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Independent agencies of the United States federal government are those agencies that exist outside of the federal executive departments (those headed by a Cabinet secretary). More specifically, the term may be used to describe agencies that, while constitutionally part of the executive branch, are independent of presidential control, usually because the president's power to dismiss the agency head or a member is limited.

Established through separate statutes passed by the Congress, each respective statutory grant of authority defines the goals the agency must work towards, as well as what substantive areas, if any, over which it may have the power of rulemaking. These agency rules (or regulations), when in force, have the power of federal law.

Functional characteristics[edit]

Independent agencies can be distinguished from the federal executive departments and other executive agencies by their structural and functional characteristics.[1] Congress can also designate certain agencies explicitly as "independent" in the governing statute, but the functional differences have more legal significance.[2]

While most executive agencies have a single director, administrator, or secretary appointed by the President of the United States, independent agencies (in the narrower sense of being outside presidential control) almost always have a commission, board, or similar collegial body consisting of five to seven members who share power over the agency.[1] (This is why many independent agencies include the word "Commission" or "Board" in their name.) The President appoints the commissioners or board members, subject to Senate confirmation, but they often serve with staggered terms, and often for longer terms than a usual four-year Presidential term,[3] meaning most Presidents will not have the opportunity to appoint all the commissioners of a given independent agency. Normally the President can designate which Commissioner will serve as the Chairperson.[3] Normally there are statutory provisions limiting the President's authority to remove commissioners, typically for incapacity, neglect of duty, malfeasance, or other good cause.[4] In addition, most independent agencies have a statutory requirement of bipartisan membership on the commission, so the President cannot simply fill vacancies with members of his own political party.[3]

In reality, the high turnover rate among these commissioners or board members means that most Presidents have the opportunity to fill enough vacancies to constitute a voting majority on each independent agency commission within the first two years of the first term as President.[5] In some famous instances, Presidents have found the independent agencies more loyal and in lockstep with the President's wishes and policy objectives than some dissenters among the executive agency political appointments.[6] Presidential attempts to remove independent agency officials have generated most of the important Supreme Court legal opinions in this area.[3] Presidents normally do have the authority to remove heads of independent agencies, but they must meet the statutory requirements for removal, such as demonstrating that the individual has committed malfeasance. In contrast, the President can remove regular executive agency heads at will.

If the independent agency exercises any executive powers like enforcement, and most of them do, Congress cannot participate in the regular removal process of commissioners.[7] Constitutionally, Congress can only participate directly in impeachment proceedings. Congress can, however, pass statutes limiting the circumstances under which the President can remove commissioners of independent agencies.[8] Members of Congress cannot serve as commissioners on independent agencies that have executive powers,[9] nor can Congress itself appoint the commissioners - the Appointments Clause of the Constitution vests that power in the President.[10] The Senate does participate, however, in appointments through "advice and consent", which occurs through confirmation hearings and votes on the President's nominees.

Independent regulatory agency[edit]

There is a further distinction between an independent agency and an independent regulatory agency. The Paperwork Reduction Act lists 19 enumerated "independent regulatory agencies". Generally, the heads of independent regulatory agencies can only be removed for cause, whereas independent agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Cabinet department heads serve "at the pleasure of the President".[11] Executive Order 12866, which requires cost-benefit analysis for certain regulatory actions, does not apply to independent regulatory agencies.[11]

Examples[edit]

Former agencies[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Pierce, Richard; Shapiro, Sidney A.; Verkuil , Paul (5th ed. 2009), Administrative Law and Process, Section 4.4.1b, p. 101, Foundation Press ISBN 1-59941-425-2
  2. ^ Shane,Peter, Merrill, Richard; Mashaw, Jerry (2003), Administrative Law: The American Public Law Process pp.228-29, Thomson-West: ISBN 978-0-314-14425-6 [1]
  3. ^ a b c d Pierce, Shapiro, & Verkuil (2009) p. 102.
  4. ^ See, e.g., Humphrey's Executor v. United States, 295 U.S. 602 (1935).
  5. ^ Shane, Merrill, Mashaw (2003) p. 230; Pierce, Shapiro, & Verkuil (2009) p. 102.
  6. ^ Shane, Merrill, Mashaw (2003) p. 231.
  7. ^ See Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714 (1986), Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976)
  8. ^ Humphrey's Executor v. United States 295 U.S. 602 (1935)
  9. ^ Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976)
  10. ^ See Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52 (1926); Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976)
  11. ^ a b Copeland CW. (2013). Economic Analysis and Independent Regulatory Agencies. Administrative Conference of the United States. See more at Benefit-Cost Analysis at Independent Regulatory Agencies.
  12. ^ Federal Maritime Commission
  13. ^ See, e.g., "Fed, central banks move to boost global confidence". AP. [dead link]
  14. ^ See "About the NTSB". 
  15. ^ [ Richard H. Stallings Biography, Idaho State University Library]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]