Discussants

Brian Lai, University of Iowa and Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, University of Iowa

Start Date

13-10-2006 4:00 PM

End Date

13-10-2006 5:00 PM

Abstract

Paper prepared for the Shambaugh Conference, “Building Synergies Institutions and Cooperation in World Politics,” October 12-15, University of Iowa.

Abstract

Treaty-making involves the constitutional struggle for policy control. Both Congress and the presdient are defined as official actors in the making of international commitments, and both closely guard their constitutionally defined roles. Yet extant scholarship generally concludes Congress rarely matters in establishing U.S. formal commitments abroad. Indeed, it is frequently pointed out that only 21 treaties have been voted down by the U.S. Senate in its 230 year existence. While true, such a figure presents an incomplete picture of congressional influence. Presidents may covet greater institutional capacity to direct unilaterally U.S. foreign policy, but opposition in both the House and Senate frequently reins in an uncompromising White House. In this paper we compare the international commitments made by Presidents George W. Bush (2001-2004) and Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909). We find the Senate’s role in influencing and/or altering treaties has been under-estimated in most analyses. While the Senate rarely rejects a treaty negotiated by the president with a recorded floor vote, the Senate can and does attach amendments and reservations to treaties that affect U.S. obligations and responsibilities. More importantly, though, and even less recognized are treaties killed by the Senate through inaction. At least 21 treaties during Roosevelt’s administration were rejected by the Senate, none of them by a formal floor vote. By ignoring Senate influence before an official floor vote risks under-estimating the influence the Senate has on U.S. commitments abroad. This paper also explores the domestic political authority under which presidents negotiate international agreements. Most scholars conclude that international agreements signal unilateral presidential power. Yet, many are negotiated pursuant to congressional statutes or previously ratified treaties. In both cases, Congress maintains influence over the process.

Rights

Copyright © Brandon C. Prins, Bryan W. Marshall, 2006.

Share

COinS
 
Oct 13th, 4:00 PM Oct 13th, 5:00 PM

International Commitments in an Era of Unilateral Presidential Power: A Comparison of the Treaties and Executive Agreements made by the Administrations of George W. Bush and Theodore Roosevelt

Paper prepared for the Shambaugh Conference, “Building Synergies Institutions and Cooperation in World Politics,” October 12-15, University of Iowa.

Abstract

Treaty-making involves the constitutional struggle for policy control. Both Congress and the presdient are defined as official actors in the making of international commitments, and both closely guard their constitutionally defined roles. Yet extant scholarship generally concludes Congress rarely matters in establishing U.S. formal commitments abroad. Indeed, it is frequently pointed out that only 21 treaties have been voted down by the U.S. Senate in its 230 year existence. While true, such a figure presents an incomplete picture of congressional influence. Presidents may covet greater institutional capacity to direct unilaterally U.S. foreign policy, but opposition in both the House and Senate frequently reins in an uncompromising White House. In this paper we compare the international commitments made by Presidents George W. Bush (2001-2004) and Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909). We find the Senate’s role in influencing and/or altering treaties has been under-estimated in most analyses. While the Senate rarely rejects a treaty negotiated by the president with a recorded floor vote, the Senate can and does attach amendments and reservations to treaties that affect U.S. obligations and responsibilities. More importantly, though, and even less recognized are treaties killed by the Senate through inaction. At least 21 treaties during Roosevelt’s administration were rejected by the Senate, none of them by a formal floor vote. By ignoring Senate influence before an official floor vote risks under-estimating the influence the Senate has on U.S. commitments abroad. This paper also explores the domestic political authority under which presidents negotiate international agreements. Most scholars conclude that international agreements signal unilateral presidential power. Yet, many are negotiated pursuant to congressional statutes or previously ratified treaties. In both cases, Congress maintains influence over the process.