Treaties' End: The Past, Present, and Future of International Lawmaking in the United States

137 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2008 Last revised: 27 May 2008


Nearly every international agreement that is made through the Treaty Clause should be approved by both houses of Congress as a congressional-executive agreement instead. In making this case, this Article examines U.S. international lawmaking through empirical, comparative, historical, and policy lenses. U.S. international lawmaking is currently haphazardly carved up between two tracks of international lawmaking, with some areas assigned to the Treaty Clause route, others to the congressional-executive agreement route, and many uncomfortably straddling the two. Moreover, the process for making international law that is outlined in the U.S. Constitution is close to unique in cross-national perspective. To explain how the United States came to have such a haphazard and unusual system, this Article traces the history of U.S. international lawmaking back to the Founding. The rules and patterns of practice that now govern were developed in response to specific contingent events that for the most part have little or no continuing significance. The Treaty Clause process is demonstrably inferior to the congressional-executive agreement process as a matter of public policy on nearly all crucial dimensions: ease of use, democratic legitimacy, and strength of the international legal commitments that are created. Thus, this Article concludes by charting a course toward ending the Treaty Clause for all but a handful of international agreements. By gradually replacing most Article II treaties with ex post congressional-executive agreements, policymakers can make America's domestic engagement with international law more sensible, effective, and law more sensible, more effective, and more democratic.

Keywords: Treaty Clause, Congressional-Executive Agreement, International Law

JEL Classification: K33, K10

Suggested Citation

Hathaway, Oona A., Treaties' End: The Past, Present, and Future of International Lawmaking in the United States. Yale Law Journal, Vol. 117, No. 8, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Oona A. Hathaway (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-432-4992 (Phone)
203-432-1107 (Fax)

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