The Making of United States International Economic Policy: Principles, Problems, and Proposals for Reform

By Stephen D. Cohen | Go to book overview

5 The Congress and the Judicial Branch

The less people know about the making of sausage and of laws, the better off they are.

--attributed to Otto von Bismarck

The U.S. Congress's status as joint partner with the executive branch in formulating international economic policy constitutes a decision-making structure not found in any other country. Nowhere else does the legislative branch even remotely possess the independent power, capabilities, and inclination to affect the substance of external economic policies above and beyond the preferences of the executive branch. Building on its constitutional powers, the Congress has become sufficiently well-informed and assertive that the administration is often reduced to the role of high-powered lobbyist. The U.S. executive branch is unlike that of any other country in terms of the time and energy it expends trying to convince Congress either to pass international economics-oriented legislation that it wants or to modify congressional initiatives that it does not support.

It is not possible to comprehend the intricacies of U.S. international economic policies without an appreciation of the legal, procedural, and philosophical factors that underlie congressional activities in this area. The extent of Congress's impact on these polices varies from one sector to another, with trade policy being at the top of its list of interests. This chapter examines the less than precise organizational dynamics and committee jurisdictions of Capitol Hill. It also observes similarities and differences in organizational behavior exhibited by the legislative and executive branches of government. The nature of the uneasy

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