On January 3, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump will face a new reality: a chamber of Congress controlled by the opposition party. Confronting a hostile Democratic House of Representatives will be a rude awakening for a president who chafes at any limits on his authority. For the first two years of his presidency, Trump experienced little resistance from the Republican-controlled Congress as he sought to disrupt the established international order. Republicans largely stood by as Trump withdrew from vital international agreements, embraced autocrats while giving allies the cold shoulder, used Twitter to threaten friends and foes alike, and discarded democracy and human rights as core values of U.S. foreign policy.
His free rein is over. Now that Democrats have taken power in the House of Representatives, Congress has a chance to influence the administration’s foreign policy. The Constitution gives Congress more authority over foreign affairs than most observers understand. It has the power of the purse, the power to declare war, and the power to regulate the armed forces, trade, and immigration. Congress can fund programs it supports and withhold money from those it doesn’t. It can block initiatives that require legislation and use investigations to expose and
All rights reserved. To request permission to distribute or reprint this article, please visit ForeignAffairs.com/Permissions.