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14.2 Politics and Policy Making

Politics and policymaking are linked to each other. The legislative process is also viewed as a continuous struggle carried out by opposing groups, to secure power and control of public policy. The individual legislator is subject to a variety of complex and conflicting forces and influences. For example, President Clinton signed the welfare reform bill in 1996, that imposed cuts in direct federal aid and new work requirements that was presented by the Republican-controlled Congress. However, since this legislation troubled several Democrats and organizations representing the poor, he indicated that he would seek changes in the law in the next session of the Congress.

14.2a Fragmented Policies

Fragmented policies are often the result of the very nature of the U.S. system of government. Owing to the separation of powers, the system of checks and balance, and federalism, one institution alone is not responsible for making policy. For example, the federal governmentís view on immigration reform, is different from those of the governors of states mandated to make provisions for services to illegal immigrants. The opposing views of interest groups also influence the issue.

Fragmentation may also arise from the lack of coordination among agencies. Thus, for example, the entry of illegal drugs into the country has to be prevented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Customs service, and the Coast Guard, the local and state police, who sometimes have overlapping jurisdictions, resulting in fragmentation.

14.2b Politics in Congress

The manner in which things are done in the Congress may hamper or advance the formulation and adoption of public policy. Bills that are enacted to provide appropriations for political purposes to a special group or region of the country are referred to as pork-barrel legislation by the opponents of the legislation. Thus bills for the construction of major public works may create jobs, but at the same time may be contrary to a broader policy direction, such as the requirement for a cut in the federal budget deficit.

The practice of reciprocity or logrolling is another method of backing public policy. Thus a senator requests and receives many favors and courtesies from his fellow senators, with the understanding that he will repay the kindness in some form. Thus a senator may be out of town and request a delay in the vote on a particular bill. Reciprocity may involve trivial pleasantries or millions of dollars in traded votes for public works appropriations.

14.2c Iron triangles and issue networks

Public policy is not affected only by elected officials. Iron triangles exist between congressional committees, administrative agencies and lobbyists, and these exert considerable influence. An issue network comprising of Congress members, committee staff, administrative and regulatory agency directors and staff, lobbies, executive department officials and scholars, also work on specific public policy. Scholars such as economists, sociologists and political scientists offer to congressional committee important views on issues, after their years of study.

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14.0 Introduction
14.1 The Policy Making Process

14.2 Politics and Policy Making
14.3 Policy Making in Action

Chapter 15

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