By Marie T. Henehan
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Extra resources for Foreign Policy and Congress: An International Relations Perspective
As an overall perspective on the respective roles of Congress and the president, the executive-dominance literature captures aspects of the presidency built into the of‹ce by the Constitution but exaggerates them by peering through the normative lens of distaste for congressional involvement in foreign policy. This literature then turns this lens on a particular historical era—the early Cold War. This focus on a period in which Congress was not very active produces a picture that is, from a historical point of view, incomplete at best and distorted at worst.
Disturbed by what they see as an uncritical acceptance of the assumptions of executive dominance, they embark on what they call “a necessary reappraisal” (32). They begin by asserting that, contrary to what most authors say, Congress has provided more initiative and leadership historically than has the president. Moe and Teel reinterpret Chamberlain’s (1946) ‹ndings, showing that they indicate that the president shapes less than half of the legislation on national security. They feel that, in the 25 years between the two studies, there has been a chronic tendency to exaggerate congressional impotence.
Carter ‹nds that for 65 percent of the cases, Congress is compliant or resistant and that in 35 percent of the cases, Congress rejects the administration’s request or initiates its own policy. Although a 65 percent success rate indicates considerable presidential in›uence, the fact that Congress rejects the administration’s proposals or initiates its own policies the other 35 percent of the time implies that the executive-dominance school has given Congress short shrift. Although Carter ‹nds more assertive behavior after 1968 (43 percent) than before (29 percent), he points out that congressional assertiveness is not unique to the Vietnam era: “independent” behavior has comprised 25 percent of congressional foreign policy behavior since the 1950s, leading him to conclude that the overall pattern of congressional foreign policy behavior is basically the same for the 1960s as it is for the 1970s and early 1980s (1986a, 352).