Who Isn’t Running American Government: Appointee Vacancies in U.S. Executive Branch Agencies
Journal of Public Policy, Forthcoming
50 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2019 Last revised: 29 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 6, 2020
We analyze presidential appointee positions subject to Senate-confirmation (PAS) without a confirmed appointee in office. These “vacant” positions are byproducts of American constitutional design, shaped by the interplay of institutional politics. Using a novel data-set, we analyze PAS vacancies across executive branch departments and single-headed agencies between January 1989 and January 2013. We develop a theoretical model in order to uncover the dynamics of vacancy onset and length. We then specify an empirical model and report results highlighting both position and principal-agent relations as critical to the politics of appointee vacancies. We find high-status PAS positions reduce the frequency and duration of vacancies. However, conditional on this and consistent with our theoretical model, we also find important principal-agent considerations from a separation of powers perspective, as vacant PAS positions in agencies ideologically divergent to the Senate majority are vacant for less time than in ideologically congruent agencies.
Keywords: Presidential Appointments, Senate, Vacancies
JEL Classification: J45
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation