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Watchdogs on the HillThe Decline of Congressional Oversight of U.S. Foreign Relations$
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Linda L. Fowler

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151618

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151618.001.0001

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Committee Goals and Oversight Strategies

Committee Goals and Oversight Strategies

(p.98) Chapter 4 Committee Goals and Oversight Strategies
Watchdogs on the Hill

Linda L. Fowler

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how the distinctive goals of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees led to strategic choices about how much attention to devote to oversight of national security, particularly in comparison to budget activity. It explains why divided government was not a consistent motivator for national security oversight and how indicators of long-term committee goals influenced both committees' stance toward the executive branch. It argues that the Armed Services Committee muted partisan conflict and deemphasized oversight in order to attend to funding the Defense Department, whereas the Foreign Relations Committee was a more active overseer of foreign affairs during periods of divided government. The differences between the two committees reveal how selection biases built into the committee assignment process affected the rule of law in national security and shed light on the inconsistent findings in the scholarly literature with respect to divided government.

Keywords:   divided government, Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, national security oversight, executive branch, Defense Department, foreign affairs, rule of law, Senate

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