The Obama Administration's Use of Executive Agreements: Business As Usual or Presidential Unilateralism?
45 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2014
Date Written: April 3, 2014
Obama has completed far fewer treaties than his predecessors. The use of executive agreements, the alternative to treaties, has continued apace. The change is partly a result of polarization in the Senate, which increases the president’s reliance upon unilateral authority. Despite this marked change in the implementation of US diplomacy, we have little understanding of the nature of these agreements and how they compare to treaties. Does the departure from the treaty signal a change in how presidents complete agreements? Does Obama’s shift away from treaties mean that executive agreements will be used with greater frequency in dealing with significant matters, in which the norm has been to use treaties? Answering these questions requires an extensive analysis of the hundreds of agreements completed in recent years. To begin answering these questions, I catalog and code executive agreements signed during Obama’s first term (2009 to 2012). The executive agreements are coded on a variety of variables: topic, agreement partner, agency, etc., and coding continues. Various data challenges exist in accurately cataloging executive agreements and the results presented in this paper are largely preliminary.
Keywords: Treaties; Executive Agreements; Diplomacy; US Foreign Policy
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