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When drafting the constitution of the United States the founding fathers took great precautions in ensuring that no one branch of government became too powerful and established an authoritarian regime. In order to do this the drafters of the Constitution implemented a system of checks and balances in nearly all aspects of the new republic’s government. One of these checks and balances was the distribution of foreign policy power between Congress and the President. This balance in power would be an important deterrent of one branch of the government abusing its power which could result in catastrophic decisions such as dragging the the nation into unnecessary or unwanted foreign entanglements. This friction was created by design not only to ward off tyrannical rule but also fix many of the problems that the previous Articles of Confederation created. When supporting the ratification of the Constitution, James Madison wrote “If there is a principle in our Constitution, indeed in any free Constitution, more sacred than any other, it is that which separates the legislative, executive, and judicial powers.”
Due to the complex wording of the Constitution it can be difficult to understand the differences between the legislative branch and Congress and the intrinsic divisions between them. This opacity of power is also bolstered due to the fact that the third branch, the judicial arm of government, does not typically become involved regarding foreign disputes. As a result, this creates a constant power struggle between the legislative and executive branches. In order to understand how this complex dynamic works within the government of the United States, observers must first look towards to the foreign policy provided to the President of the United States. Second the foreign policy authority of Congress, and third how these powers work together by comparing and using historical precedent and examples.In order to understand the powers of Congress, one first must look at Article I of the Constitution that enumerates several of Congress’s foreign affairs powers. This includes the many different powers like the ability to regulate commerce with foreign nations, declare war with foreign nations, raise and support armies and provide and maintain a navy, and creates rules for the government and regulation the military. The Constitution also allows for Congress to check two of the President’s foreign affairs powers, make treaties and appointing diplomats.
The act of both making treaties and appointing diplomats are however dependent on Senate approval. Congress’s general powers also allow the collection of taxes to draw money from the Treasury, and to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper that allow the legislative branch to control many foreign policy decisions. For example, the last session of Congress during the Obama administration was able to pass a variety of laws that affect America’s foreign policy that ranged from electronic surveillance to North Korea sanctions to border security to wildlife trafficking. One instance where the legislative branch clashed with the executive is when lawmakers overrode President Barack
Obama’s veto to enact a law allowing victims of international terrorist attacks to sue foreign governments. This shows the clear division of power and conflict that Congress and the President have when trying to enact foreign policy legislation. Congress can also play an oversight role on foreign policy issues that allows them to expand their power. The annual appropriations process allows Congressional Committees to review, in detail, the budgets and programs of the vast military and diplomatic bureaucracies. The power of the purse gives the legislative branch a large variety of control over many aspects of American foreign policy. Lawmakers must sign off on more than a trillion dollars in federal spending every year, of which more than half is allocated to defense and international affairs. Lawmakers may also control how that money is to be spent. Another example of Congress clashing with the executive branch is when the last session of Congress repeatedly barred the Obama administration from using funds to transfer detainees out of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Congress also has broad authority to conduct investigations into particular foreign policy or national security concerns. High-profile inquiries in recent years have centered on the 9/11 attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation programs, and the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Furthermore Congress has the power to create, eliminate, or restructure executive branch agencies, which it has often done after major conflicts or crises. In the past, Congress passed the National Security Act of 1947, which established the CIA and National Security Council during WWII. In more recent times like the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security to deal with threats from abroad that threat the citizens of the united states. These examples demonstrate the great power that Congress has in determining the foreign policy of the United States. When understanding how the executive branch gets its power observers must look to the Constitution. The President’s authority in foreign affairs, just like the rest of his/her authority, is rooted in Article II of the Constitution. The Constitution grants the executive the powers to make treaties and appoint Ambassadors with the advice and consent of the Senate. While the President is able to appoint Ambassadors and many other positions the Senate can checks his power through an approval process. In some instances the two branches cooperate for example when the Congress approves the President’s appointment. In other cases such as many recent examples in the Obama administration, Congress would not approve the President’s appointments. Treaties require approval of two-thirds of Senators present which also acts as another check on the executive branch. Appointments require approval of a simple majority which is just over 5 percent. Presidents also rely on other clauses to support their foreign policy actions, especially those that allow executive power and the role of Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy. From the Commander-in-Chief clause in the constitution, the powers to use military force and collect foreign intelligence is given to the executive branch.The ability to appoint and host ambassadors is another clear example of power that the executive branch holds. This allows the executive branch to control how they interaction with foreign nations and who will be representing the nation. Typically this means that the ambassadors that the presidents appoints will be loyal to them and will reflect the president’s ideas on foreign policy not necessarily the ideas of congress. Recognizing a foreign government and conducting diplomacy gives the executive branch broad power however though Congress must confirm the ambassadors chosen by the executive branch. This is another example of Congress checking the power of the executive due to the fact that if congress does not approve of the president’s choices for ambassadors they can not appoint the selected candidates.However though recently Congress has passed legislation giving the executive additional authority to act on specific foreign policy issues which demonstrates the two branches working together. One Of these more modern examples is the creation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 that allows the President to impose economic sanctions on foreign entities without the need for congress to vote on the issues. This made it easier for the executive branch to flex its foreign policy muscles while removing some power of the legislative branch.. Presidents have also used case law to support their claims of authority when they have fought with the legislative branch over the jurisdiction of foreign policy. One notable instances was, two U.S. Supreme Court decisions United States. V. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation in 1936 and Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer in 1952. In the first case, the court held that the President at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt acted within his constitutional authority when he brought charges against the Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation for selling arms to Paraguay and Bolivia in violation of federal law. Executive branch attorneys now typically cite Justice George Sutherland’s expansive interpretation of the president’s foreign affairs powers in that case. Typically they support the idea that president is the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations. “He, not Congress, has the better opportunity of knowing conditions which prevail in foreign countries and especially is this true in time of war,” Sutherland wrote. In the second case, the court held that President Harry Truman ran violated the Constitution when he ordered the seizure of U.S. steel mills during the Korean War. Youngstown is often described by legal scholars as a bookend to Curtiss-Wright since the latter recognizes broad executive authority, whereas the former describes limits on it. Youngstown is cited regularly for Justice Robert Jackson’s three-tiered framework for evaluating presidential power: The political branches often cross swords over foreign policy, particularly when the president is of a different party than the leadership of at least one chamber of Congress. One of the following issues often spur conflict between Congress and the Executive Branch is Military operations. War powers are once again divided between the two branches. While only Congress can declare war, many presidents have ordered U.S. forces into war like operations without congressional authorization. While presidents can use military force to repel an attack, it is unclear when they may initiate the use of military force on their own authority. Toward the end of the Vietnam War, Congress sought to regulate the use of military force by enacting the War Powers Resolution over President Richard Nixon’s veto. Executive branch attorneys have questioned parts of the resolution’s constitutionality ever since, and many presidents have flouted it. In 2001, Congress authorized President George W. Bush to use military force against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks; and, in 2002, it approved U.S. military action against Iraq. However, recently legal experts from both parties have said the president should have obtained additional authorities to use military force in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. Congress can also use its “power of the purse” to rein in the president’s military ambitions, by restricting the funding to the military but historialiyc legislators do not typically take action until near the end of a conflict. In modern times however military spending has only increased and shows no sign of slowing down no matter who is in power. Another deterinte to restricting military spending by lawmakers is the fact that they are often seen by their constituents as holding back funding for U.S. forces fighting abroad and therefore are not patriotic or do not care for our military/veterans. In the past during the Vietnam War, lawmakers passed several amendments prohibiting the use of funds for combat operations in Vietnam and neighboring countries. Congress took similar measures in the 1980s with regard to Nicaragua, and in the 1990s with Somalia. Presidents have also blocked at congressional attempts to withhold economic or security assistance from governments or entities with poor human rights records. For instance, during the Obama administration, senior U.S. military commanders said that, while well-intentioned, restrictions on U.S. aid complicated other foreign policy objectives, like counterterrorism or counternarcotics. Intelligence. Congress passed several laws regulating intelligence gathering and established committees to supervise the executive branch’s activities in areas including covert operations. Many presidents have objected to these developments stating that the legislative branch was encroaching on their jurisdiction. Congress has also began to claim a larger role in intelligence oversight ever since the 1970s. Once instance in particular was after the Church Committee uncovered privacy abuses committed by the CIA, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and National Security Agency. Over the years the Senate has also approved more than 1,600 treaties, but has also rejected or refused to consider many other agreements presented to them. After the great war, many US senators rejected the Treaty of Versailles, which had been negotiated by President Woodrow Wilson in France at the time. More recently however, a small coalition in the senate has blocked ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea despite the support of both Republican and Democratic administrations. Political hurdles have always plagued treaties which has led presidents to create many major multinational agreements without Senate consent. One modern example is the Paris Agreement to address climate change or the Iran nuclear agreement to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Bot of these agreements were negotiated by the executive branch without the consent of the the legislative branch at the time. Both of these were not approved by congress yet significant importance on the global scene and dictated the united states stance on very important issues.. Thus, legal analysts say, future presidents could likely withdraw from them without congressional consent which grants the president complete power over the agreement and fllowthough made by the predecessors. The Constitution does not cleary say whether presidents need the legislative branch consent to end treaties so as of now the current president has all of the power. The Constitution however clearly grants the executive branch powers to regulate foreign commerce, however though lawmakers for decades granted president’s authority to negotiate trade deals within established parameters. This follows a clear pattern of congress in recent times granting the executive branch more power of foreign affairs. Presidents are also constitutionally bound to execute federal immigration laws, but it is still unclear over how much power they have when acting. Many Republican lawmakers in the past have stated that Obama administration ignored the law when it established programs that shielded undocumented immigrants from deportation. The administration at the time however stated that it had broad discretion to decide how to spend the government’s scarce resources on enforcement and therefore did not violate the law like the lawmakers in congress called. In recent times, several Democratic lawmakers stated that the current President Donald J. Trump had overstepped his constitutional authority when he attempted to issue a travel block from several Muslim majority countries from entering the United States.As America enters the modern age and political parties become more and more polarized observers tend to notice the decreasing of bipartisan work well a sharp increase of same party members working together on everything. This divide in American politics is one of the primary reasons that we see much more cooperation between the legislative and executive branch rather than conflict. In today’s political atmosphere if a political party controls both the legislative and executive branches they often work together on everything rather than addressing each issue individually. This is much different than the founding fathers intended when they created the checks and balance system. both the legislative and executive branches were supposed to check each other’s power and their conflict would ensure that no one branch would become too influential in foreign policy. According to James Fallows A political analyst from the Atlantic Partisanship has reached an all-time high ever since 2010 and the minority parties have consistently done well to discipline their ranks and act as a complete opposition Force to the ruling party. however now that the ruling party controls all branches of government it is clear that the conflict the founding fathers intended to act as a balance between the branches is no longer present. In conclusion it is very opaque when it comes to which branch of the government should be dominant in foreign policy. However after extensive research it is clear to me that in the system the legislative branch would be more dominant in foreign policy rather than the executive. From my research it is simply too dangerous to have one person be more dominant than any other branch when it comes to foreign policy due to the severity and importance of the issue. While there are already many checks on the executive branch’s foreign policy power in America’s current state of electoral process it is clear that the president does not represent the majority of Americans. typically Congress is a more equal representation of the American people due to the fact that it does not use the Electoral College an outdated system that does not truly reflect the political ideals of the American people. Therefore when it comes to extremely important issues such as foreign policy the more dominant Branch should be the legislative branch due to the fact that accurately represents the American people and is held more accountable to the American people do to the more constant elections in multitude of people within the legislative branch. The The fact that there are many people in the legislative branch create its own realm of conflict and checks and balances that ensures that a simple surge of emotion or ideas does not overwhelm all of those in Congress and lead to any rash or dangerous decisions when it comes to foreign policy. therefore it is clear that the legislative branch should be the more dominant Force when it comes to foreign policy due to the fact that it more accurately represents the American people and it is made up of many different individuals which ensures a significant level of debate when an acting policis.
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