AMERICAN POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY WORKSHOP
Abstract: The presidency is now thought of as a representative institution. I argue that the idea of presidential representation – the claim that presidents represent the whole nation – influenced the political development of the institutional presidency. Specifically, I show that the idea was integral to creating a national budget system in the United States. While the challenge of World War I debt prompted its passage, the 1921 law’s design owes much to reformers’ arguments that the president lacked the institutional tools to fulfill his representative role. Departing from constitutional expectations, the law signified a first move toward institutionalizing presidential representation by requiring presidential initiative in the budget process and enhancing the president’s organizational capacity.
John Dearborn is a 4th-year Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Yale with research focusing on the Presidency, Congress, and American Political Development. He graduated from UConn with a B.A. in political science in 2013.