FOREIGN POLICY BY CONGRESS by Thomas M. & Edward Weisband Franck


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While Watergate was weakening the Presidency, Congress set about appropriating some of the unused power by cutting off funds for the continuance of U.S. bombing in Indochina--thereby, according to these authors, taking a quantum leap into foreign policy making. Franck (NYU Law School) and Weisband (SUNY Binghamton) argue that a ""revolution"" of sorts took place, not only insofar as Congress annexed some Presidential power, but also in that the power did not pass to the traditional Congressional leadership, but to ad hoc Congressional groupings. The authors decry the Indochina cut-offs because the terms were encased in law, a practice which, they feel, unduly ties the unpredictable realm of foreign affairs to the presupposed predictability of law. Then, as they note, there came further Congressional moves vis-…-vis U.S. policy toward Angola, Turkey, and the Panama Canal Treaty (today they might add Cuba and SALT II). These initiatives occurred at the same time that Congress moved to control the ""intelligence community"" and to inject concerns about nuclear proliferation and human rights into foreign policy. Some may see all this as an unqualified victory for the Constitution and democracy, but to Franck and Weisband increased Congressional control over foreign policy diffuses power and makes manipulation by lobbying groups more effective. While it is true that Congress has found new ways to influence foreign policy, and has outfitted itself with a proliferating staff of foreign policy experts to that end, the authors may be making too much of a trend that is scarcely six years old; is not without historical antecedents; and has complimented, in effect, a period of Presidential impotence and indecisiveness. There is still a great deal of Presidential discretion to be used by a strong-minded incumbent, which may mitigate against the judiciously shared policy-making power that the authors desire. A timely topic overlabored.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press