Treaty Ratification

July 12, 1972

Report Outline
Senate Unrest Over Foreign-Policy Role
Separation of Powers in Treaty Making
Military Considerations in Treaty Making
Special Focus

Senate Unrest Over Foreign-Policy Role

Importance Attached to Ratification of SALT

When the senate acts on the arms agreements President Nixon brought home from Moscow, its considerations will be weighted by more than the immediate issues of national security and world peace. A sense of frustration felt in Congress, especially in the Senate, bears on the debate. It arises from a view that the legislative role is withering under the impact of presidential diplomacy in the nuclear age. The Senate's right of “advice and consent” in treaty making, the constitutional device for injecting its will into the shaping of foreign policy, often has been bypassed by recent Presidents through executive agreements and other means.

Of the two Strategic Arms Limitation (Salt) pacts signed in Moscow on May 26, 1972, one was the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABMs), and the other was technically an executive agreement placing a numerical freeze on U.S. and Soviet offensive missile launchers for five years at roughly the present levels. Senate ratification of the treaty by substantially more than the required two-thirds majority currently is expected to come sometime next month. In a move to add the prestige of congressional concurrence to the offensive missile agreement, President Nixon also submitted it for simple-majority approval by both Houses.

In the aftermath of the Moscow summit conference, there was nearly unanimous agreement among scholars, scientists and political leaders that the accords signaled an acceptance of parity—”sufficiency” in Nixon's terminology—in nuclear weapons, final rejection of “first-strike” strategy by either nation, and acknowledgment by each nation of the other's equal status in the first rank of international power. Dr. Henry Kissinger, the President's principal national security adviser, outlined for 100 members of Congress what the administration believes is the basic issue.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Constitution and Separation of Powers
Sep. 07, 2012  Re-examining the Constitution
Jan. 29, 1988  Treaty Ratification
Mar. 27, 1987  Bicentennial of the Constitution
Jan. 31, 1986  Constitution Debate Renewed
Mar. 16, 1979  Calls for Constitutional Conventions
Jul. 04, 1976  Appraising the American Revolution
Sep. 12, 1973  Separation of Powers
Jul. 12, 1972  Treaty Ratification
Apr. 19, 1967  Foreign Policy Making and the Congress
Mar. 05, 1947  Contempt of Congress
May 10, 1945  The Tariff Power
Jul. 01, 1943  Executive Agreements
Jun. 01, 1943  Advice and Consent of the Senate
May 24, 1943  Modernization of Congress
Jan. 18, 1943  The Treaty Power
Aug. 24, 1942  Congress and the Conduct of War
May 09, 1940  Congressional Powers of Inquiry
Nov. 09, 1939  Participation by Congress in Control of Foreign Policy
Apr. 21, 1937  Revision of the Constitution
Feb. 24, 1936  Advance Opinions on Constitutional Questions
Oct. 04, 1935  Federal Powers Under the Commerce Clause
Jun. 19, 1935  The President, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court
Sep. 10, 1928  The Senate and the Multilateral Treaty
Dec. 16, 1926  The Senate's Power of Investigation
Oct. 03, 1924  Pending Proposals to Amend the Constitution
International Law and Agreements
Powers and History of the Presidency