The body of law created by administrative agencies in the forms of rules, regulations and orders, decisions to carry out regulatory powers and duties of such agencies
- Black’s Law Dictionary
Administrative Law most often takes the form of rules or regulations, but it can also consist of other administrative actions such as decisions or orders. Although agencies are considered part of the executive branch, the duties that agencies perform are similar to the functions that we associate with all 3 branches of government.
If agencies have the power to act like all 3 branches of government, where does this power come from?
The U.S. Constitution vests all legislative powers with the Congress, but also says that Congress can make whatever laws are necessary to execute those powers. Congress uses its delegation authority to authorize administrative agencies to assist in the execution of the law.
Limits on Agency Power
Congress has ensured that the powers it has delegated to administrative agencies is not unlimited. Federal agencies receive their grants of authority through what is known as an “enabling statute” passed by the Congress. An enabling statute can create an agency and specify exactly what powers Congress is delegating to that agency. Agency actions can never exceed the scope of their original grant of authority from Congress.
Congress also limits agency powers through the Administrative Procedure Act (5 USC 551 et seq). The APA lays out the rules that agencies must follow when drafting new regulations and in their adjudications and hearings.
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