Setting the Regulatory Agenda: Statutory Deadlines and the Conditions for Compliance

Anthony Bertelli, Kathleen M. Doherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Congress imposes statutory deadlines in an attempt to influence agency regulatory agendas, though agencies regularly fail to meet those deadlines. Noncompliance can take the form of delay or, at the extreme, nonpromulgation of mandated regulations. What political and administrative conditions shape the timing of rules subject to statutory deadlines, and how do they do so? This article considers compliance from the agency's perspective, as a management problem of optimizing the regulatory agenda subject to two constraints: the political feasibility of rulemaking and the capacity of agencies. The authors argue that public managers consider how delay maps onto political time and administrative time. This theory is tested on all unique rules with statutory deadlines published in the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions between 1995 and 2012. The argument and findings about the timing and ultimate promulgation of rules have implications that reorient studies of the regulatory agenda from legal and political into more managerial terms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPublic Administration Review
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing

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