The Congress, the Executive and Intermestic Affairs: Three Proposals

Courtesy Reuters

Over the past five years, there has been much debate about the proper respective roles of the President and the Congress in the field of foreign affairs. Most of the new interest in this topic is attributable to the conduct of a series of Presidents regarding Vietnam; a part of the interest arises out of the special aggravant of Watergate. As has happened periodically in American history when the people and the Congress have been unhappy with a President's performance, the pendulum of power has swung eastward on Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol. Out of the recent executive-legislative tug-of-war have come a new War Powers Act, undertaking to give the Congress a larger role in future commitments of U.S. forces, and legislation designed to provide a greater degree of congressional oversight over the activities of the intelligence community. The decline in presidential prestige has also made it easier for the Congress to stymie the executive branch on specific foreign policy issues, and made it possible for special interest subconstituencies to exert determining influence on national policy through local pressure on members of the Congress.

Recent reforms in congressional-executive relations represent an improvement over the past. But their impact will almost certainly be marginal in the long view and it appears that the direction of the tide has already turned. With a duly elected President in office in January, presidential prestige will rise, Vietnam and Watergate will fade further into the smog of time, new international circumstances will produce new situations in which the nation must act, and it is predictable that the presidency will effectively reassert its primacy in international matters that involve national security.

When at last we shall have ceased to debate yesterday's crisis and correct yesterday's abuse, we can turn attention to new and urgent problems that afflict our governmental machinery for making foreign policy. I believe we shall soon have to make major architectural changes in the way the Congress and the executive work, and work

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.