NewYorkUniversity
LawReview

Issues

Author

Nina A. Mendelson

Results

Agency Burrowing: Entrenching Policies and Personnel Before a New President Arrives

Nina A. Mendelson

This Article examines executive branch agency actions concluded just before a new President takes office, such as “midnight” rulemaking and late-term hiring and promotion, which Professor Mendelson collectively refers to as “agency burrowing.” Congress, the media, and some commentators have portrayed such activities as unsavory power grabs that undermine the President-elect’s ability to direct the functions of administrative agencies. Rather than dismissing agency burrowing out of hand, however, Professor Mendelson argues for a more nuanced approach. In some cases, burrowing can make positive contributions to the democratic responsiveness of agencies, agency accountability, and the “rule of law.” A fuller analysis of burrowing also suggests the need for a more nuanced approach to President-centered theories of the administrative state. Maximum presidential oversight may be insufficient to ensure agency accountability and democratic responsiveness. Instead of focusing centrally on a formal President-agency relationship, we may wish to give greater attention to more functional means of ensuring agency legitimacy such as monitoring, focused public dialogue on issues before agencies, and agency development of self-limiting rules.