What are the existing checks on the exercise of bureaucratic power?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main checks on the bureaucracy come from the elected parts of government.  Specifically, both the Congress and the president have ways to check the exercise of bureaucratic power.

The president can check the bureaucracies by appointing high level bureaucrats.  These appointees are supposed to control the bureaucrats below them and keep them from exercising too much power.  At the same time, the president makes the departments' budget requests.  The president can stop requesting money for agencies and programs he does not like.  This prospect keeps bureaucrats from just doing whatever they want.

The Congress has the power of oversight over bureaucracies and, most importantly, the power of the purse.  If the Congress does not like what an agency is doing, it can call bureaucrats before hearings and scold them.  The bureaucrats need to pay attention to what Congress says because Congress is the body that determines how much money each agency actually gets.  Congress can also change the laws under which the agencies work.  This is another check on the bureaucracy because Congress can make new laws affecting agencies that act in ways Congress does not like.

In these ways, the elected parts of government have a lot of control over the bureaucracies.  When bureaucrats exercise "too much" power it is because the elected bodies allow them to do so.

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