Handmaidens of the legislature? Understanding regulatory timing

Simon F. Haeder, Susan Webb Yackee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


When does legislation trigger regulation? The US Congress regularly passes laws that authorise government agencies to write legally binding regulations. Yet, when this occurs, agencies may take years to act - or, at times - may never act at all. We theorise that the breadth of the congressional statutory delegation drives the timing of agency policy production. In particular, when Congress expressly tells an agency to promulgate a rule, we expect agencies to do so quickly. Yet, when Congress provides greater policymaking discretion to agencies, we expect other factors - and especially, internal agency considerations - to drive regulatory timing. We use data from almost 350 statutes spanning four decades, which are then matched up with thousands of regulations, to assess the argument. Using innovative methods, we find support for our hypotheses. Overall, we produce a deeper understanding of the link between delegation and discretion: suggesting when it occurs, as well as, importantly, why.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)298-322
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Public Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 13 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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