Yale-Duke Foreign Relations Law Roundtable
Congress’s Authority Over Foreign Affairs
Friday, September 28, 2018
Much of the focus of modern foreign relations law scholarship has been on the extent of presidential power and how this power has expanded over time. But Congress also has significant authority in this area. Moreover, in recent years, Congress has, at times, appeared to be more willing to assert itself in opposition to presidential foreign policy positions. Examples include Congress’s enactment of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) over President Obama’s veto and Congress’s enactment of sanctions against Russia despite President Trump’s objections. In recent years, Congress has also attempted to engage more directly in diplomacy, not always in ways that are aligned with presidential policy. Additional conflicts between the two political branches appear to be likely in the coming years, such as over trade policy and the allocation of constitutional authority to terminate or withdraw from international agreements. Furthermore, questions are increasingly being raised about whether and to what extent Congress should attempt to rein in some of its broad delegations of foreign affairs authority to the executive branch. The prospect of divided government after the 2018 midterm elections raises the possibility of more robust efforts to press back against the president. This Roundtable will focus on Congress’s authority over foreign affairs, including the prospects for—and desirability and legality of—Congress exercising greater authority over foreign affairs.