McCormick, James

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The Making of International Agreements: a Reappraisal of Congressional Involvement

1978 , Johnson, Loch , McCormick, James , McCormick, James , Political Science

Although the constitution implies that the primary responsibility in the making of foreign policy resides in the Executive Branch, the Congress shares several important powers in this area.' Among these is the prerogative to join in the making of international commitments, as expressed in the treaty-making provisions of the Constitution.2 Lately, however, critics have argued that the foreign policy powers of Congress have eroded drastically through unilateral action taken by the Executive Branch. The criticism contends, first, that the form of international commitments has changed in recent years. Increasingly, the President has used executive agreements, proclamations, or other unilateral instruments to circumvent the involvement of the Congress.3 A second and related criticism centers on the content of the various international agreements. Even when the Congress has been involved in the agreement-making process, the issues with which it has dealt have been substantively less important than those handled unilaterally by the Executive. According to this view, for example, the making of military agreements has tended to take the form of executive agreements-thus excluding congressional participation-while the making of taxation agreements or radio regulations is presented to the Congress in the forms of treaties.