Helen Milner (WWS and Dept of Politics)
Presidential Power and American Foreign Policy: The Interaction of Congress, the Executive and the Public from 1975-2008
(Helen Milner and Dustin Tingley)
Thursday, December 13, 2012
12:00 - 1:30pm
300 Wallace Hall
Faculty, fellows, and graduate students only
How important is the President for US foreign policy? Studies in American politics—the Two Presidencies literature—assert that the president is much less constrained by Congress and other domestic forces in foreign policy than in domestic policy. Studies in international relations also often assume that the president is the most important actor in foreign policy and is relatively unconstrained by domestic politics. Additionally, studies in international relations often assume that each issue area in foreign policy can be studied in separation. We challenge each of these views. Using new data on roll call votes in Congress and on Presidential-Congressional budget interactions, we argue that 1. Foreign policy instruments should be analyzed jointly and comparatively because they are substitutable, 2. Some foreign policy instruments are more constrained by Congress and domestic forces and look more like domestic issue areas, 3. Other foreign policy instruments, because they can be linked more directly to national security, allow the President more discretion and influence over their use. Our research has two larger implications. Presidential bargaining with Congress over foreign policy matters since the Presidents tend to be more favorable on average to international engagement; rising congressional influence may circumscribe America’s role in the international system.