Binding Hands or Granting Discretion: Congress, the President, and the Design of Economic Sanctions

35 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2020

See all articles by Ashrakat Elshehawy

Ashrakat Elshehawy

University of Oxford

Nikolay Marinov

University of Houston - Department of Political Science

Federico Nanni

Data and Web Science Group

Jordan Tama

American University

Date Written: October 9, 2020

Abstract

Prior scholarship on the role of the U.S. Congress in sanctions policy making has highlighted how sanctions legislating is shaped by domestic political pressures. We move beyond a focus on interest groups, public opinion, and electoral incentives while investigating an important but underappreciated dimension of sanctions legislation – whether and how legislation grants the executive branch discretion regarding its implementation. We explain how deterrence objectives, treaty commitments, signaling concerns, and the uncertainties and trade-offs associated with different issues influence the degree and type of flexibility provided to the executive branch in sanctions legislation. We test hypotheses derived from this argument with evidence from a novel data set, created directly from the complete corpus of U.S. government documents dealing with sanctions from 1988-2016. Our analysis also has important implications for research on the effectiveness of sanctions, high- lighting the importance of taking into account underappreciated legislative design features when evaluating the success or failure of this commonly used policy tool.

Keywords: economic sanctions, deterrence, delegation

Suggested Citation

Elshehawy, Ashrakat and Marinov, Nikolay and Nanni, Federico and Tama, Jordan, Binding Hands or Granting Discretion: Congress, the President, and the Design of Economic Sanctions (October 9, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3708586 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3708586

Ashrakat Elshehawy

University of Oxford ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom

Nikolay Marinov (Contact Author)

University of Houston - Department of Political Science ( email )

TX 77204-3011
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nikolaymarinov.com

Federico Nanni

Data and Web Science Group ( email )

Germany

Jordan Tama

American University ( email )

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