Congress Week 2022: Checks in the Balance

Photo of Bolton and Thrower alongside book cover.

| 04:00 pm - 05:30 pm

As part of its annual Congress Week celebration, the Russell Library along with co-sponsors the Department of Political Science and the Applied Politics Certificate program are hosting Alexander Bolton and Sharece Thrower to discuss their new book Checks in the Balance: Legislative Capacity and the Dynamics of Executive Power. 

Alexander Bolton is assistant professor of political science at Emory University. Twitter @alexbolton

Sharece Thrower is associate professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. Twitter @ShareceThrower

About the book: The specter of unbridled executive power looms large in the American political imagination. Are checks and balances enough to constrain ambitious executives? Checks in the Balance presents a new theory of separation of powers that brings legislative capacity to the fore, explaining why Congress and state legislatures must possess both the opportunities and the means to constrain presidents and governors–and why, without these tools, executive power will prevail. Alexander Bolton and Sharece Thrower reveal how legislative capacity–which they conceive of as the combination of a legislature’s resources and policymaking powers–is the key to preventing the accumulation of power in the hands of an encroaching executive. They show how low-capacity legislatures face difficulties checking the executive through mechanisms such as discretion and oversight, and how presidents and governors unilaterally bypass such legislative adversaries to impose their will. When legislative capacity is high, however, the legislative branch can effectively stifle executives. Bolton and Thrower draw on a wealth of historical evidence on congressional capacity, oversight, discretion, and presidential unilateralism. They also examine thousands of gubernatorial executive orders, demonstrating how varying capacity in the states affects governors’ power. Checks in the Balance affirms the centrality of legislatures in tempering executive power–and sheds vital new light on how and why they fail.

This Congress Week event will take place on April 12, 2022 from 4-5:30 PM in the Pinnacle Room, Baldwin Hall, 355 South Jackson Street. Please direct questions to Dr. Ashton Ellett at

Event co-sponsored by Department of Political Science and the Applied Politics Certificate Program

Pinnacle Room
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