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Copyright 1986 The Harvard Law Review Association.

Harvard Law Review


MARCH, 1986

99 Harv. L. Rev. 1075


Christopher C. DeMuth 1 and Douglas H. Ginsburg 2


Since the earliest days of the Republic, presidents have taken the steps they deemed necessary to maintain some control over the activities of the executive branch -- to ensure that officials' statements and actions followed presidential policies and were consistent with each other. For example, President Jefferson reported approvingly that President Washington had routinely reviewed the correspondence prepared by his cabinet officials before it was mailed, a practice that Jefferson resumed. 3 With the growth of the executive branch, later presidents took more formal steps to maintain their influence over the executive bureaucracy. In 1921, the Bureau of the Budget was created to consolidate all executive branch budget submissions. Shortly thereafter, agency positions on proposed legislation were also routed through the Bureau of the Budget.

In the 1970s, growing dissatisfaction with government regulation led to formal presidential oversight of executive branch rulemaking. This oversight function was eventually entrusted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the Executive Office of the President. The same rationale applied: the president wanted to ensure that regulations were consistent with each other and with administration policies and priorities. Modest initial efforts begun during the Nixon administration have been strengthened and expanded by each president who followed. 4

President Reagan's regulatory review program evolved from these earlier efforts and extended them in two crucial respects. First, the initial programs directed agencies to assess the social costs and benefits of their rules; the Reagan program directs agencies to decide regulatory questions according ...
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