The Separation of Power Between Congress and the President: Tools of Presidential Control




Professor of Law

Project Summary

 Our project tracked trends in American executive power through an analysis of views letters, letters sent to Congress by the Department of Justice to communicate the President's views on proposed legislation at various points in the legislative process. We found that the content and purpose of the letters, from the late 1940s to the present, changed substantially over time, reflecting changes in the power of the presidency. With time, letters focused more on constitutional issues, specifically the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, and less on policy concerns. We also found that view letters are generally ineffective in actually influencing the legislative process and serve more as a catalog of the executive branch's views towards certain policy and constitutional issues. The experience was engaging and interesting; it was also particularly relevant in today’s political climate. The opportunity to study the Trump administration (and past administrations) from a legal perspective, rather than a political or economic one, was eye-opening. I was exposed to a portion of the political world that rarely gets media attention but still carries valuable information. In addition to what I learned about the topics we studied, I also learned how to construct and conduct a research project - how to design a research question, collect relevant data, and analyze the data as objectively as possible. I have a strong desire to pursue research even further, and perhaps conduct a project of my own at some point during college, and this project left me with a better understanding of how to do so.