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After Enactment: The Lives and Deaths of Federal Programs

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While many scholars have focused on the production of legislation, we explore life after enactment. Contrary to the prevailing view that federal programs are indissoluble, we show that programmatic restructurings and terminations are commonplace. In addition, we observe significant changes in programmatic appropriations. We suggest that a sitting congress is most likely to transform, kill, or cut programs inherited from an enacting congress when its partisan composition differs substantially. To test this claim, we examine the postenactment histories of every federal domestic program established between 1971 and 2003, using a new dataset that distinguishes program death from restructuring. Consistent with our predictions, we find that changes in the partisan composition of congresses have a strong influence on program durability and size. We thus dispel the notion that federal programs are everlasting while providing a plausible coalition-based account for their evolution.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: The University of Chicago 2: University of Wisconsin–Madison

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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