Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Chair and Committee
The essays in this dissertation are variations on a single theme-how do legislative attempts to constrain the executive branch impact foreign policy outcomes? Conventional wisdom on US foreign policy is split. Some argue that domestic politics no longer stop "at the water's edge," and the president is constrained by Congress in foreign policy just as in domestic policy, particularly when economic interests are at stake. Others contend that Wlidavsky's "two presidencies" thesis is alive and strong, and the legislature places relatively few constraints on the president's foreign policy. My research, presented here, shows that the true relationship is much more nuanced. Placing the policy preferences of the primary political actors on a single, unidimensional scale oversimplifies the issue. In fact, Congress is concerned more with domestic policy, but foreign policy can bring substantial domestic repercussions. In trying to manage those domestic effects, Congress constrains the types of tools that the executive branch can use.
The first easy investigates Congressional oversight of the International Trade Com- mission: ITC). A sizable literature finds that members of the Congressional oversight committee have used their positions to influence ITC decisions in favor of constituents who seek trade protection. But, reviewing the history of the ITC and the legislation that governs it, I find that the oversight mechanisms put in place were insufficient to lock in this type of preference. Using and original dataset that quantifies witness testimony before the ITC, I find that previous studies have overlooked the substantial political pressure on the ITC from domestic companies that oppose trade protection, as well as from those that seek protection. The ITC remains constrained by Congress, but Congressional oversight reveals far more diverse trade preferences than previously documented in the ITC literature.
The second and third essays focus on US foreign assistance policy. In the second essay, I highlight the role of foreign assistance accounts in the annual budget battles between the president and Congress. These accounts include the authorizations dictating how the foreign aid can be use and, therefore, what impact foreign assistance will have on domestic constituents. While most of the foreign aid literature focuses on which countries receive aid from the United States, that debate is less likely to be important to Congress. Using a novel dataset that records the president's request for foreign aid along with the Congressional appropriation, I am able to show that the differences between the president and Congress are much greater across the different accounts than than across the different recipients. In other words, Congress leaves the president discretion to determine where aid is sent, but retains a firm hand over how aid is spent.
Finally, in the third essay, I illustrate how the Congressional focus on foreign aid accounts constrains the use of foreign aid. I show that the allocation of foreign aid within each account is largely explained by the authorization language used for that account. Funds authorized for economic development indeed flow to countries where the economic need is greater. Funds authorized for security flow to countries where US strategic concerns predominate, regardless of economic ned. And funds authorized for political purposes respond to both types of objectives, depending on the specific purposes for which they are authorized. This goes a long way to explaining some persistent puzzles in the foreign aid literature. First, although studies using aggregated aid data find that US development aid is used for security purposes, this effect disappears when the aid is disaggregated by account. Second, previous research has shown that Republicans give more foreign aid than Democrats in the US, while across other donors, Liberals are far more supportive of foreign aid than conservatives. Using the disaggregated data, it becomes clear that the Republican generosity is not in development aid at all. Rather, Republicans seek more foreign aid than Democrats for security and political purposes.
In sum, these essays show that research on the interbranch politics of US foreign policy can benefit greatly from a closer examination of the institutional structures that constrain the political actors. This more detailed account often reveals that oversimplified explanations of the domestic politics of foreign policy are based on unfounded assumptions or omitted variables. The more interesting question is not whether the president or Congress controls US foreign policy, but how the different incentives of the two actors interact to balance domestic and foreign objectives.
Caddel, Jeremy, "Domestic Political Institutions in U.S. Foreign Policy Decision Making" (2013). All Theses and Dissertations (ETDs). 1126.