Congress and Foreign Policy

When it comes to Foreign Policy, it is traditionally the President who dominates – he has the role of commander-in-chief, he can negotiate treaties and he can, if necessary use executive orders (although somewhat controversially). Congress’ role here is very much reactive. This explains why many second term presidents, faced with falling polls and fewer seats in Congress often turn their attention to foreign policy where they are arguably less impeded by Congressional checks.

However, this is a great example of where Congress are not willing to simply allow the President to dominate in this area. Obama’s negotiations with Iran had already caused considerable concern in Congress, who wanted a greater input and oversight into the negotiations. Therefore, yesterday, Congress passed an Iran review bill, granting Congress 30 days to review any nuclear deal with Iran. It has been sent to Obama for his signature.

What is particularly notable about this bill is the bipartisan support it gathered in both the Senate (98-1) and the House of Representatives (400-25). This could be used to show that bipartisanship can work in Congress; it can also be used to show the difficulty a second term president can face in Congress. In this case it is not just that the Republicans control Congress, but that even his own party is willing to challenge his authority. Therefore in an essay about an imperial presidency, this perfectly examples the Number 1 judgment I have always told you to refer to – ‘IT DEPENDS’, usually on how many years a president has served and national/global circumstances. In this case, while presidents have traditionally dominated foreign policy, when it comes to Iran and nuclear deals, Congress are simply unwilling to allow it to pass without having a say themselves.

Great evidence for checks and balances, for bipartisanship in Congress, for a ‘who controls Foreign Policy’ question and for a power of the president question, amongst others.