Professor Douglas Kriner‘s book (co-authored with Eric Schickler), Investigating the President: Congressional Checks on Presidential Power, has won the 2017 Richard E. Neustadt Award given for the best book on executive politics published during the year. This is the second time Prof Kriner has won this prestigious award, also receiving it last year for his book (co-authored with Andrew Reeves), The Particularistic President.
The book has also won the Richard F. Fenno Prize, which is awarded to the best book in legislative studies published in the previous year. In the tradition of Professor Fenno’s work, this prize is designed to honor work that is both theoretically and empirically strong. Moreover, this prize is dedicated to encouraging scholars to pursue new and different avenues of research in order to find answers to previously unexplored questions about the nature of politics.
Although congressional investigations have provided some of the most dramatic moments in American political history, they have often been dismissed as mere political theater. But these investigations are far more than grandstanding. Investigating the President shows that congressional investigations are a powerful tool for members of Congress to counter presidential aggrandizement. By shining a light on alleged executive wrongdoing, investigations can exert significant pressure on the president and materially affect policy outcomes.
Douglas Kriner and Eric Schickler construct the most comprehensive overview of congressional investigative oversight to date, analyzing nearly thirteen thousand days of hearings, spanning more than a century, from 1898 through 2014. The authors examine the forces driving investigative power over time and across chambers, identify how hearings might influence the president’s strategic calculations through the erosion of the president’s public approval rating, and uncover the pathways through which investigations have shaped public policy. Put simply, by bringing significant political pressure to bear on the president, investigations often afford Congress a blunt, but effective check on presidential power—without the need to worry about veto threats or other hurdles such as Senate filibusters.
In an era of intense partisan polarization and institutional dysfunction, Investigating the President delves into the dynamics of congressional investigations and how Congress leverages this tool to counterbalance presidential power.