Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Schraufnagel, Scot D.||Scott, James M.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


Political science; International relations


This dissertation examines congressional influences in US foreign policy. As such, it addresses the nature of inter-branch relations and the quality of checks and balances in the American political system. An underlying assumption in the dissertation is that politics in the US does not stop at the water's edge. Put differently, the research recognizes the great potential domestic politics plays in shaping US foreign policy. As the president's partner in the law-making process, Congress is potentially one of the most important foreign policy actors. Three empirical foreign policy cases are examined in this dissertation. In each of the cases, I investigated how congressional dynamics shape foreign policy making process. In the first case, I tested the arguments that ideology and congressional support affect presidential decisions in engaging in the military intervention during a foreign policy crisis. I found empirical support for these arguments. Specifically, when Congress becomes more conservative, the president is more likely to command a military operation in a foreign policy crisis abroad. I also found partial support for the effect of congressional support for the decision to become involved in a foreign policy crisis. Especially interesting is that the president values the Senate support higher than that of the House. The president is emboldened to engage in a military adventure when he has strong backing from the Senate. In the second case, I examined the impact of congressional support and party polarization in Congress throughout the duration of legislated sanctions. This examination is based on the argument that the president and Congress tend to see the use of sanction against another country differently. The president generally wants shorter and less punitive sanctions, while Congress wants longer and more punitive ones. Although the president has ample authority to terminate the sanctions, the termination process is more complicated due to the legislative process entailed in the legislated sanctions. The question then is under what conditions can the president terminate the sanction. I argue that the legislated sanctions can be shorter when the president has more support from Congress and the level of party polarization in Congress is moderate. While some empirical evidence supporting the polarization arguments were observed in both the House and the Senate, the empirical analysis for the congressional support revealed that the president can successfully terminate sanctions only if he has more support from the Senate. Finally, I also explored the effects of partisan preferences and partisanship on congressional decisions to give foreign aid to foreign countries. Using literature of public opinion and political psychology, I tested whether the Democrats are more supportive of development aid but averse to the military aid. The empirical analysis shows that they are. However, the empirical support is found in the House only. An increase in the Democratic seats in the House is associated with a general increase in the level of development aid but a general decrease in the military aid. All empirical observations in the dissertation demonstrate that Congress is still a potent actor in American foreign policy. This is especially true for the Senate, which is constitutionally endowed with some authority to be involved in foreign policy decision-making process. These findings have some implications for the study of American foreign policy both theoretically and methodologically.


Advisors: Scot Schraufnagel; James M. Scott.||Committee members: J. Mitchell Pickerill.||Includes illustrations.||Includes bibliographical references.


228 pages




Northern Illinois University

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