Put aside the overheated spat about the wisdom of inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress this week. The deeper constitutional issue involves the insistence by President Barack Obama that the House and Senate have no business floating sanctions bills that might upset the administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
The truth is that there’s nothing remotely unusual going on. Congress has pressured presidents to change their approaches to foreign policy for as long as the country has existed. This sort of interplay among the branches is exactly what the Framers expected.
Let’s start with a trio of examples in just the past four decades. In December 1978, a brouhaha erupted in Washington after President Jimmy Carter broke diplomatic relations with what was then known as the Republic of China and instead recognized the People’s Republic of China. As part of the switch, Carter unilaterally ended the mutual defense pact between the U.S. and Taiwan. He subsequently submitted legislation to Congress that would preserve certain cultural and commercial ties with the Taiwan regime. He made no mention of military assistance.