The Formulation and Administration of United States Foreign Policy

By H. Field Haviland; Robert E. Asher et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter II. The Congress

The dramatic rise of the United States to a role of world leadership has propelled the Congress to greater prominence in international affairs. The scope and costs of the new leadership responsibilities, the fading of the line between domestic and foreign policy, and the growing impact of international developments upon the domestic scene have been among the factors involving the Congress more intimately with foreign policy. More than half of the 36 standing committees now regularly deal with issues of international significance. This confronts the. Congress with the same basic problem that faces the Government as a whole: the task of reconciling the competing concepts and requirements of a growing range of policies and organizational entities concerned with international affairs.


A. RELATIONS WITH THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Before the Second World War, "foreign policy" was essentially what might be described as "political" foreign policy and the means and instruments to execute it. Issues like the tariff and immigration, and even the state and use of military power, were considered essentially "domestic." Under the separation of powers, the division of labor resulted in Presidential preeminence in the shaping and execution of foreign policy, in special activity and concern by the Senate because of its powers regarding treaties and appointments and the prerogatives flowing from them, and an intermittent concern by the Congress centering around periodic legislative issues or in response to crises.

Today most important policies bear on foreign affairs. This has affected the balance between the Congress and the Executive. Because the increasing involvement of the United States in world affairs requires constant and substantial legislative support, the Congress has become a more active participant in the foreign policy process, concerned not only with broad goals but with such vital elements as economic development, farm surpluses, shipping subsidies, and cultural contacts. At the same time, there are major obstacles that tend to frustrate the legislative role, including the growing volume and complexity of international transactions, the speed and flexibility with which many foreign policy matters must be handled, the limiting effect of having to work in harness with other countries, and the secrecy that conceals many of these activities.

The adjustment of the Congress and the Executive to this new state of affairs has been pragmatic. Executive-legislative relations have come to involve hundreds of public and private contacts between the two branches at many levels. Agencies and processes to facilitate the achievement of cooperation, whether involving legislation or not, have multiplied. Consultative subcommittees, briefing sessions, participation by legislators in international meetings, joint executive-

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