Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2013

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Political Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Presidents have a strong incentive to control executive agencies through the nomination of like-minded and responsive individuals to leadership posts. The Senate, however, must provide its advice and consent for appointments to these key positions. While most nominees are successfully confirmed, this success rate tends to mask wide variation in the length of time it takes the Senate to make a decision. Delay of critical nominees can influence the character of an agency while hampering the policy ambitions of a president. In this way the power to delay can be as important as the power to reject a nominee. Building on prior literature, I suggest a conditional theory of delay based upon the ideological predispositions of agencies relative to a president. Using a novel data set of several thousand executive nominations from 1987 to 2010, this project tests hypotheses related to delay, failure, and ultimately considers the merits of potential reforms. My findings suggest that agency predispositions along with position level, independence, and political contexts are all important predictors of obstruction. These results help to explain the context and history of conflict over executive nominations as well as why some nominees are delayed or fail while other, seemingly similar, nominees are not.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Bill Lowry, Steven Smith

Committee Members

Randall Calvert, Gary Miller, Andrew Sobel, Murray Weidenbaum


Permanent URL: