Agreeable Administrators? Analyzing the Public Positions of Cabinet Secretaries and Presidents

Anthony M. Bertelli, Christian R. Grose

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Cabinet secretaries represent their departments when testifying before Congress on a broad range of legislation. Do they also represent the president's views on such legislation? Consistent with institutional theories of the presidency, we posit that, in some instances, cabinet secretaries take public positions contrary to those of the president, suggesting ideological distinctions between presidents and their appointed secretaries. We examine all congressional testimonies of secretaries of labor, commerce, and agriculture from 1991 to 2002, coding their positions taken on legislation considered on the floor of the Senate. Though these public disagreements are infrequent, our evidence suggests that agreement is more likely as support for the president's position among oversight committee members increases, yet less likely as secretaries’ tenure in office increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-247
Number of pages20
JournalPresidential Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration

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