Presidential Proclamations Project at the University of Houston

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The following are some of the publications that have resulted from the Presidential Proclamations Project. 

Brandon Rottinghaus and Jason Maier.  2007.  “The Power of Decree:  Recent Presidential Use of Executive Proclamations.”  Political Research Quarterly 60 (2):  338-343.

Recent scholarship on unilateral presidential actions has recast our understanding of modern presidential policy making.  However, our knowledge on this issue remains incomplete.  We expand the literature on the unilateral presidency by exploring presidential proclamations from 1977 to 2005 and identifying the importance of these tools as a policy making instrument in expanding presidential power.  A majority of presidential proclamations involve presidential authority under delegated powers of international trade and presidents use this power in coordination with (but largely independent of) Congress.  Presidents also use proclamations on the issue of national parks and federal lands exclusively to initiate new federal arrangements establishing new national parks or protections for federal lands, often against the will of Congress.


Brandon Rottinghaus and Elvin Lim.  2008.  “Proclaiming Trade Policy:  Presidential Unilateral Enactment of Trade Policy.”  American Politics Research

This article examines presidential proclamations on trade policy, a category of presidential unilateral power that we call “delegated unilateral power” that is used frequently in creating or modifying trade policy, from 1974-2006, and tests the boundaries of the explanations predicted by the unilateral powers literature.  We also find that the use of proclamations on trade policy is independent of the partisan balance in Congress. The use of proclamations modifying policies was the only tactic that comported with predicted actions from the unilateral presidency.  Therefore, contrary to the expectations of the unilateral presidency, presidents are not unrestrained political agents on trade policy, and although presidents have the capacity to do so, they rarely use political factors as a pretext to enact unilateral policy on trade.  Ultimately, unilateral powers are not all created equal, as some allow for considerable presidential authority and some are more limited. 


Michelle Belco (UH Graduate Student) and Brandon Rottinghaus.  2009.  “Proclamation 6920:  Using Executive Power to Set a New Direction for the Management of National Monuments.”  Presidential Studies Quarterly (“The Law” Features).

Scholars in recent years have been interested in the use of presidential proclamations but the scope and implications of their use have yet to be fully examined. Specifically, the Antiquities Act of 1906 granted the president broad discretionary authority to proclaim national monuments. Presidents have used this power, often despite the consternation of Congress, to implement changes in public policy. In this context, when President Clinton issued Proclamation 6920 to establish the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, his use of executive power initiated a significant Congressional reaction even though his delegation of the managing agency, which will have a lasting effect on public lands policy, received little attention. In this article, we argue first, despite Congressional efforts to limit the president’s discretion to proclaim national monuments under the Antiquities Act, executive power was not curtailed, and second, that by delegating management authority to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) President Clinton laid the groundwork for a new direction for both national monuments and BLM.


Jeremy D. Bailey and Brandon Rottinghaus.  2013.  "The Development of Unilateral Power and the Problem of the Power to Warn: Washington through McKinley."  Presidential Studies Quarterly.

The scholarly turn to the unilateral presidency has expanded our understanding of the presidency and executive power, but, to date, this body of work has focused on presidents since the New Deal. This is somewhat surprising, given that many of the most well known unilateral orders were issued before 1900. Rather than being isolated events, they are part of a longer list of unilateral presidential orders among early presidents that, as a group, have received little scholarly attention. This paper seeks, first, to introduce “settle down” proclamations (which are issued as warnings to the public) issued by presidents before Theodore Roosevelt as a way to further understand the development of executive power in the early presidency. Second, it uses these proclamations to test whether the findings of the unilateral presidency scholarship hold with respect to unilateral power before the twentieth century. The paper concludes by comparing unilateral power to prerogative power and proposing a path for future research.


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