Investigating the president: Congressional checks on presidential power

Published date01 September 2017
Date01 September 2017
AuthorSharece Thrower
Investigating the president: Congressional checks
on presidential power
Douglas L. Kriner | Eric Schickler
Princeton University Press, 2016, 304 pp., £24.95 (pbk), ISBN: 9780691171869
With the rise of polarization within the United States, it has become increasingly difficult for Congress to constrain
presidential power through the passage of legislation. Yet, legislators are not completely helpless in checking the
executive, and they can do so through alternative means. In Investigating the President, Kriner and Schickler identify
one such strategycongressional committee investigations of executive branch misconductthat obviates the need
for onerous supermajority coalitions, while still accruing personal gains to legislators.
Specifically, the authors ask two questions regarding this less-appreciated legislative power: when does Con-
gress choose to investigate the executive branch and what are its implications for weakening presidential power
and influencing public policy?
To answer the first question, Kriner and Schickler outline a theoryof congressional investigative behaviour based
on both partisan and ideological conditions(chapter 2). Similar to previous studies, the authors predict that Congress
engages in more investigations during divided government to diminish public support for oppositional presidents.
Yet, their theory distinctly buildsupon these previous arguments by predicting that this effect is exacerbatedby high
polarization. That is, legislators investigate an opposing president even more vigorously when little common ground

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