December 05, 2017

Corker Statement at Hearing on Shared Authority Over International Agreements

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the following statement at a hearing on the shared authority of the president and Congress over international agreements. The hearing follows a November 14 hearing on the authority to order the use of nuclear weapons and an October 30 hearing with Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis on authorizations for the use of military force.

“Today, we are going to continue a series of hearings to examine the executive’s authorities with respect to war making, the use of nuclear weapons, and from a diplomatic perspective, entering into and terminating agreements with other countries.

“We are here today to discuss the shared authority over international accords, an issue of fundamental importance to our national interests and separation of powers.

“Let me be clear: this is not about any effort to constrain the inherent powers of the president with respect to diplomacy. Our nation must speak with one voice in diplomatic affairs, and under our Constitution, the president determines U.S. foreign policy.

“But Congress plays a vital role in providing advice and consent on treaties and authorizing U.S. participation in international agreements that shape our foreign policy.

“Our founders understood the danger of entrusting too much of this power to the president alone, and the Constitution clearly provides for a shared authority to enter into binding international agreements.

“The House and Senate play an indispensable role in enacting legislation that provides the president with a domestic legal basis for fulfilling our international commitments.

“And with respect to agreements that rise to the level of a treaty, the Senate has a unique constitutional role in approving treaties.

“Therefore, we must be active participants in the process.

“Through the years, presidents from both parties have increasingly abused their authority to enter into and terminate binding international agreements with little input from the Congress.

“To avoid further ceding of our authority to the executive branch, we must fulfill our constitutional role as partners in this effort and be vigilant in our oversight responsibilities.

“This challenge is greater than ever before. As Professor Bradley will note in his testimony, more than 90 percent of the thousands of binding international agreements entered into by the United States over the last 80 years have not been treaties but various forms of executive agreements.

“We are stronger internationally when the president and Congress work together. Unilateral presidential action, without a meaningful congressional partner, undermines our national strength.

“For that reason, I hope this committee will work in a bipartisan way to ensure that the Senate will uphold its constitutional role in the process of making international agreements.

“We must work in partnership with the president when we can. We must also be ready to defend the rights and obligations of the Senate when necessary.

“And with that, I’ll turn to our distinguished ranking member, Ben Cardin.”

Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.