Challenging the President: Presidential-Senate Confrontations on Foreign Policy
This dissertation is composed of three articles that analyze which determinants influence three aspects of the confrontational relationship between the president and the Senate in the foreign policy/treaty legislation area. The first and second essays focus on the situation that the President takes an “opposed” position on foreign policy legislation and his victories when he takes that position. The third essay focuses on the number of Senators voting against treaty ratification and proposing amendments to the treaties. If the Senate is voting on a bill or amendment that the president opposes, it seems to suggest a direct challenge by the Senate to the President. My finding is the president’s political capital influences the confrontational relationship between the Presidents and Senate in the foreign policy realm. I posit that several variables such as scandal, federal deficit, general approval rating, foreign policy approval rating, and president’s party’s control of the Senate, which reflect the President’s political capital level, influence the occurrence and outcomes of conflict. In the first essay, I find empirical evidence that political capital influences the president’s taking an “opposed” position on foreign policy legislation. A case study of George W. Bush’s taking an “opposed” position on Iraq Mission legislation (S. J. Res. 9) in 2007 is used to illustrate my findings and apply them to an actual historical case. In the second essay, I find significant evidence that political scandal, foreign policy approval rating, and policy types influence the president’s victories on foreign policy legislation where he takes a “opposed” position. A case study of Bill Clinton’s loss on the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanction Act in 1998 (H.R. 2709), where he took an “opposed” position, illustrates how scandal and foreign policy approval rating influence the president’s victories on foreign policy legislation. In the final essay, I examine which determinants influence the number of Senators voting against treaty ratification and proposing amendments to treaties. The number of U.S. troops deployed overseas influences the number of Senators voting against treaty ratification. However, treaty type and the presence of unified government impact Senators’ opposition in unexpected ways. A case study of Jimmy Carter’s Panama Canal treaty in 1978 is used to show how these variables affect Senators’ votes. I also posit political scandal and the number of US troops deployed overseas as variables that impact treaty amendment; I found that treaty types, scandal, the number of U.S. troops deployed overseas influence treaty amendments. The implication of these findings is that in terms of foreign policy, we may like to think the president and Senators usually cooperate to make a foreign policy law or ratify a treaty in light of the entire national interest. In practice and reality, however, presidents and Senators confront and cooperate with each other based on the president’s political capital. The findings of this dissertation will help scholars, Senators, and other foreign policy experts to understand and predict U.S. foreign policy decision-making in the future.