State and Federal Foreign Affairs Power
in the United States
Susan W. Tiefenbrun
The Constitution of the United States has placed control of foreign affairs in the hands of the federal government in order to preserve a sense of national unity. However, an increase in state involvement in foreign affairs and a proliferation of state and local laws affecting foreign policy are at variance with the constitutionally mandated federal foreign affairs power. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the legal and policy implications relevant to the increase in state and local government involvement in foreign affairs.
We shall examine briefly the historical purposes for the constitutional centralization of governmental power in foreign affairs and provide evidence of the development of state and local activities governing foreign affairs. We shall then examine the constitutional and legal constraints on state and local involvement in foreign affairs and contrast these to constitutionally permissible state and local activities. We shall propose criteria for judging cases in which states' activities encroach on the federal foreign affairs power. Finally, we shall present arguments for and against state involvement in foreign affairs in order to better understand the policy issues underlying the conflict between state and federal power.
One of the main purposes of the Constitution was to place control of foreign affairs in the hands of the federal government. 1 James Madison in 1788 wrote in The Federalist: "If we are to be one nation in any respect, it clearly ought to be in respect to other nations." 2 Historically, the centralization of governmental