Section 2: Powers and Duties of the President
Clause 1. The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Office, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
Surprisingly little discussion of the Commander-in-Chief clause is found in the Convention or in the ratifying debates. From the evidence available, it appears that the Framers vested the duty in the President because experience in the Continental Congress had disclosed the inexpediency of vesting command in a group and because the lesson of English history was that danger lurked in vesting command in a person separate from the responsible political leaders.
". . . But in the distribution of political power between the great departments of government, there is such a wide difference between the power conferred on the President of the United States, and the authority and sovereignty which belong to the English crown, that it would be altogether unsafe to reason from any supposed resemblance between them, either as regards conquest in war, or any other subject where the rights and powers of the executive arm of the government are brought into question."
"The battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma had been fought before the passage of the act of Congress of May 13, 1846, which recognized 'a state of war as existing by the act of the Republic of Mexico.' This act not only provided for the future prosecution of the war, but was itself a vindication and ratification of the Act of the President in accepting the challenge without a previous formal declaration of war by Congress."
"This greatest of civil wars was not gradually developed by popular commotion, tumultuous assemblies, or local unorganized insurrections. However long may have been its previous conception, it nevertheless sprung forth suddenly from the parent brain, a Minerva in the full panoply of war. The President was bound to meet it in the shape it presented itself, without waiting for Congress to baptize it with a name; and no name given to it by him or them could change the fact."
". . . Whether the President in fulfilling his duties, as Commander-in-Chief, in suppressing an insurrection, has met with such armed hostile resistance, and a civil war of such alarming proportions as will compel him to accord to them the character of belligerents, is a question to be decided by him, and this Court must be governed by the decisions and acts of the political department of the Government to which this power was entrusted. 'He must determine what degree of force the crisis demands.' The proclamation of blockade is itself official and conclusive evidence to the Court that a state of war existed which demanded and authorized a recourse to such a measure, under the circumstances peculiar to the case."
In his message to Congress of September 7, 1942, in which he demanded that Congress forthwith repeal certain provisions of the Emergency Price Control Act of the previous January 30th,
"I ask the Congress to take this action by the first of October. Inaction on your part by that date will leave me with an inescapable responsibility to the people of this country to see to it that the war effort is no longer imperiled by threat of economic chaos."
"In the event that the Congress should fail to act, and act adequately, I shall accept the responsibility, and I will act."
"At the same time that farm prices are stabilized, wages can and will be stabilized also. This I will do."
"The President has the powers, under the Constitution and under Congressional acts, to take measures necessary to avert a disaster which would interfere with the winning of the war."
"I have given the most thoughtful consideration to meeting this issue without further reference to the Congress. I have determined, however, on this vital matter to consult with the Congress... ."
"The American people can be sure that I will use my powers with a full sense of my responsibility to the Constitution and to my country. The American people can also be sure that I shall not hesitate to use every power vested in me to accomplish the defeat of our enemies in any part of the world where our own safety demands such defeat."
"When the war is won, the powers under which I act automatically revert to the people-to whom they belong."
It was apparently the original intention of the Administration to rely on the general principle of military necessity and the power of the Commander-in-Chief in wartime as authority for the relocations. But before any action of importance was taken under the order, Congress ratified and adopted it by the Act of March 21, 1942,
Sanctions were also occasionally employed by statutory agencies, such as OPA, to supplement the penal provisions of the Emergency Price Control Act of January 30, 1942.
The court refused to do so and was sustained by the Supreme Court in its position. Said Justice Douglas, speaking for the Court: "Without rationing, the fuel tanks of a few would be full; the fuel tanks of many would be empty. Some localities would have plenty; communities less favorably situated would suffer. Allocation or rationing is designed to eliminate such inequalities and to treat all alike who are similarly situated.... But middlemen -wholesalers and retailers-bent on defying the rationing system could raise havoc with it.... These middlemen are the chief if not the only conduits between the source of limited supplies and the consumers. From the viewpoint of a rationing system a middleman who distributes the product in violation and disregard of the prescribed quotas is an inefficient and wasteful conduit.... Certainly we could not say that the President would lack the power under this Act to take away from a wasteful factory and route to an efficient one a previous supply of material needed for the manufacture of articles of war.... From the point of view of the factory owner from whom the materials were diverted the action would be harsh....
But in time of war the national interest cannot wait on individual claims to preference. Yet if the President has the power to channel raw materials into the most efficient industrial units and thus save scarce materials from wastage it is difficult to see why the same principle is not applicable to the distribution of fuel oil."
Congress thereafter enacted a new Housing and Rent Act to continue the controls begun in 1942
But the postwar was a time of reaction against the wartime exercise of power by President Roosevelt, and President Truman was not permitted the same liberties. The Twenty-second Amendment, writing into permanent law the two-term custom, the "Great Debate" about our participation in NATO, the attempt to limit the treaty-making power, and other actions, bespoke the reaction.
Nonetheless, the long period of the Cold War and of active hostilities in Korea and Indochina, in addition to the issue of the use of troops in the absence of congressional authorization, further created conditions for consolidation of powers in the President. In particular, a string of declarations of national emergencies, most, in whole or part, under the Trading with the Enemy Act,
Reaction after World War II did not persist, but soon ran its course, and the necessities, real and only perceived, of the United States' role as world power and chief guarantor of the peace operated to expand the powers of the President and to diminish congressional powers in the foreign relations arena. President Truman did not seek congressional authorization before sending troops to Korea, and subsequent Presidents similarly acted on their own in putting troops into many foreign countries, including the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, and the Persian Gulf, and most notably Indochina.
New lists and revised arguments were published to support the actions of President Truman in sending troops to Korea and of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in sending troops first to Vietnam and then to Indochina generally,
The pre-war actions of Presidents Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt advanced in substantial degrees the fact of presidential initiative, although the theory did not begin to catch up with the fact until the "Great Debate" over the commitment of troops by the United States to Europe under the Atlantic Pact. While congressional authorization was obtained, that debate, the debate over the United Nations charter, and the debate over Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, declaring that "armed attack" against one signatory was to be considered as "an attack" against all signatories, provided the occasion for the formulation of a theory of independent presidential power to use the armed forces in the national interest at his discretion.
"In 1787 the world was a far larger place, and the framers probably had in mind attacks upon the United States. In the 20th century, the world has grown much smaller. An attack on a country far from our shores can impinge directly on the nation's security. In the SEATO treaty, for example, it is formally declared that an armed attack against Viet Nam would endanger the peace and security of the United States."
"Under our Constitution it is the President who must decide when an armed attack has occurred. He has also the constitutional responsibility for determining what measures of defense are required when the peace and safety of the United States are endangered. If he considers that deployment of U.S. forces to South Viet Nam is required, and that military measures against the source of Communist aggression in North Viet Nam are necessary, he is constitutionally empowered to take those measures."
Opponents of such expanded presidential powers have contended, however, that the authority to initiate war was not divided between the Executive and Congress but was vested exclusively in Congress. The President had the duty and the power to repeal sudden attacks and act in other emergencies, and in his role as Commander-in-Chief he was empowered to direct the armed forces for any purpose specified by Congress.
Aside from its use as a rhetorical device, the War Powers Resolution has been of little worth in reordering presidential-congressional relations in the years since its enactment. All Presidents operating under it have expressly or implicitly considered it to be an unconstitutional infringement on presidential powers, and on each occasion of use abroad of United States troops the President in reporting to Congress has done so "consistent[ly] with" the reporting section but not pursuant to the provision.
Although there is recurrent talk within Congress and without with regard to amending the War Powers Resolution to strengthen it, no consensus has emerged, and there is little evidence that there exists within Congress the resolve to exercise the responsibility concomitant with strengthening it.
While the President customarily delegates supreme command of the forces in active service, there is no constitutional reason why he should do so, and he has been known to resolve personally important questions of military policy. Lincoln early in 1862 issued orders for a general advance in the hopes of stimulating McClellan to action; Wilson in 1918 settled the question of an independent American command on the Western Front; Truman in 1945 ordered that the bomb be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The President is the ultimate tribunal for the enforcement of the rules and regulations which Congress adopts for the government of the forces, and which are enforced through courts- martial.
Two theories of martial law are reflected in decisions of the Supreme Court. The first, which stems from the Petition of Right, 1628, provides that the common law knows no such thing as martial law;
The Civil War being safely over, however, a divided Court, in the elaborately argued Milligan case,
". . . We by no means assert that Congress can establish and apply the laws of war where no war has been declared or exists."
"Where peace exists the laws of peace must prevail. What we do maintain is, that when the nation is involved in war, and some portions of the country are invaded, and all are exposed to invasion, it is within the power of Congress to determine in what States or districts such great and imminent public danger exists as justifies the authorization of military tribunals for the trial of crimes and offenses against the discipline or security of the army or against the public safety."
At the turn of the century, however, the Court appears to have retreated from its stand in Milligan insofar as it held in Moyer v. Peabody
By section 67 of the Organic Act of April 30, 1900,
The Court relied on the majority opinion in Ex parte Milligan. Chief Justice Stone concurred in the result. "I assume also," he said, "that there could be circumstances in which the public safety requires, and the Constitution permits, substitution of trials by military tribunals for trials in the civil courts,"
The first argument the Court met as follows: The act of Congress in providing for the trial before military tribunals of offenses against the law of war is sufficiently definite, although Congress has not undertaken to codify or mark the precise boundaries of the law of war, or to enumerate or define by statute all the acts which that law condemns. ". . . [T]hose who during time of war pass surreptitiously from enemy territory into . . . [that of the United States], discarding their uniforms upon entry, for the commission of hostile acts involving destruction of life or property, have the status of unlawful combatants punishable as such by military commission."
The decision might well have rested on the ground that the Constitution is without restrictive force in wartime in a situation of this sort. The saboteurs were invaders; their penetration of the boundary of the country, projected from units of a hostile fleet, was essentially a military operation, their capture was a continuation of that operation. Punishment of the saboteurs was therefore within the President's purely martial powers as Commander-in-Chief. Moreover, seven of the petitioners were enemy aliens, and so, strictly speaking, without constitutional status. Even had they been civilians properly domiciled in the United States at the outbreak of the war, they would have been subject under the statutes to restraint and other disciplinary action by the President without appeals to the courts.
In Rasul v. Bush,
The authority in Article II, § 2, cl. 1 to require the written opinion of the heads of executive departments is the meager residue from a persistent effort in the Federal Convention to impose a council on the President.
In the first case to be decided concerning the pardoning power, Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for the Court, said: "As this power had been exercised from time immemorial by the executive of that nation whose language is our language, and to whose judicial institution ours bear a close resemblance; we adopt their principles respecting the operation and effect of a pardon, and look into their books for the rules prescribing the manner in which it is to be used by the person who would avail himself of it. A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed. It is the private, though official act of the executive magistrate, delivered to the individual for whose benefit it is intended, and not communicated officially to the Court.... A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him." Marshall continued to hold that to be noticed judicially this deed must be pleaded, like any private instrument.
In the case of Burdick v. United States,
The power embraces all "offences against the United States," except cases of impeachment, and includes the power to remit fines, penalties, and forfeitures, except as to money covered into the Treasury or paid an informer,
Justice Miller, speaking for the minority, protested that the act of Congress involved was not penal in character, but merely laid down an appropriate test of fitness to practice law. "The man who, by counterfeiting, by theft, by murder, or by treason, is rendered unfit to exercise the functions of an attorney or counsellor at law, may be saved by the executive pardon from the penitentiary or the gallows, but he is not thereby restored to the qualifications which are essential to admission to the bar."
Congress cannot limit the effects of a presidential amnesty. Thus the act of July 12, 1870, making proof of loyalty necessary to recover property abandoned and sold by the Government during the Civil War, notwithstanding any executive proclamation, pardon, amnesty, or other act of condonation or oblivion, was pronounced void. Said Chief Justice Chase for the majority: "[T]he legislature cannot change the effect of such a pardon any more than the executive can change a law. Yet this is attempted by the provision under consideration. The Court is required to receive special pardons as evidence of guilt and to treat them as null and void. It is required to disregard pardons granted by proclamation on condition, though the condition has been fulfilled, and to deny them their legal effect. This certainly impairs the executive authority and directs the Court to be instrumental to that end."
Clause 2. He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Court of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The plan which the Committee of Detail reported to the Federal Convention on August 6, 1787 provided that "the Senate of the United States shall have power to make treaties, and to appoint Ambassadors, and Judges of the Supreme Court."
Treaty commitments of the United States are of two kinds. In the language of Chief Justice Marshall in 1829: "A treaty is, in its nature, a contract between two nations, not a legislative act. It does not generally effect, of itself, the object to be accomplished; especially, so far as its operation is intraterritorial; but is carried into execution by the sovereign power of the respective parties to the instrument."
"In the United States, a different principle is established. Our constitution declares a treaty to be the law of the land. It is, consequently, to be regarded in courts of justice as equivalent to an act of the legislature, whenever it operates of itself, without the aid of any legislative provision. But when the terms of the stipulation import a contract-when either of the parties engages to perform a particular act, the treaty addresses itself to the political, not the judicial department; and the legislature must execute the contract, before it can become a rule for the Court."
In Hopkirk v. Bell,
Certain more recent cases stem from California legislation, most of it directed against Japanese immigrants. A statute which excluded aliens ineligible to American citizenship from owning real estate was upheld in 1923 on the ground that the treaty in question did not secure the rights claimed.
Leaving aside the question when a treaty is and is not self-executing,
Similarly, with regard to treaties which modify and change commercial tariff arrangements, the practice has been that the House always insisted on and the Senate acquiesced in legislation to carry into effect the provisions of such treaties.
What other treaty provisions need congressional implementation is subject to argument. In a 1907 memorandum approved by the Secretary of State, it is said, in summary of the practice and reasoning from the text of the Constitution, that the limitations on the treaty power which necessitate legislative implementation may "be found in the provisions of the Constitution which expressly confide in Congress or in other branches of the Federal Government the exercise of certain of the delegated powers...."
The one instance that may be an exception
Second, the nature of the stipulation may require legislative execution. That is, with regard to the issue discussed above, whether the delegated powers of Congress impose any limitation on the treaty power, it may be that a treaty provision will be incapable of execution without legislative action. As one authority says: "Practically this distinction depends upon whether or not the courts and the executive are able to enforce the provision without enabling legislation. Fundamentally it depends upon whether the obligation is imposed on private individuals or on public authorities... ."
"Treaty provisions which define the rights and obligations of private individuals and lay down general principles for the guidance of military, naval or administrative officials in relation thereto are usually considered self-executing. Thus treaty provisions assuring aliens equal civil rights with citizens, defining the limits of national jurisdiction, and prescribing rules of prize, war and neutrality, have been so considered ... ."
"On the other hand certain treaty obligations are addressed solely to public authorities, of which may be mentioned those requiring the payment of money, the cession of territory, the guarantee of territory or independence, the conclusion of subsequent treaties on described subjects, the participation in international organizations, the collection and supplying of information, and direction of postal, telegraphic or other services, the construction of buildings, bridges, lighthouses, etc."
Again, Congress of itself could not provide for the extradition of fugitives from justice, but the treaty-power can and has done so scores of times, and Congress has passed legislation carrying our extradition treaties into effect.
The foremost example of this interpretation is Missouri v. Holland.
A question growing out of the discussion above is whether the treaty power is bounded by constitutional limitations. By the supremacy clause, both statutes and treaties "are declared . . . to be the supreme law of the land, and no superior efficacy is given to either over the other."
Controversy over the Holmes language apparently led Justice Black in Reid v. Covert
Establishment of the general principle, however, is but the beginning; there is no readily agreed-upon standard for determining what the limitations are. The most persistently urged proposition in limitation has been that the treaty power must not invade the reserved powers of the States. In view of the sweeping language of the supremacy clause, it is hardly surprising that this argument has not prevailed.
The doctrine which seems deducible from this case and others is "that in all that properly relates to matters of international rights and obligations, whether these rights and obligations rest upon the general principles of international law or have been conventionally created by specific treaties, the United States possesses all the powers of a constitutionally centralized sovereign State; and, therefore, that when the necessity from the international standpoint arises the treaty power may be exercised, even though thereby the rights ordinarily reserved to the States are invaded."
Dicta in some of the cases lend support to the argument that the treaty power is limited by the delegation of powers among the branches of the National Government
It has also been suggested that the prohibitions against governmental action contained in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights particularly, limit the exercise of the treaty power. No doubt this is true, though again there are no cases which so hold.
One other limitation of sorts may be contained in the language of certain court decisions which seem to say that only matters of "international concern" may be the subject of treaty negotiations.
In brief, the fact that all the foreign relations power is vested in the National Government and that no formal restriction is imposed on the treaty-making power in the international context
The repeal by Congress of the "self-executing" clauses of a treaty as "law of the land" does not of itself terminate the treaty as an international contract, although it may very well provoke the other party to the treaty to do so. Hence, the questions arise where the Constitution lodges this power and where it lodges the power to interpret the contractual provisions of treaties. The first case of outright abrogation of a treaty by the United States occurred in 1798, when Congress by the Act of July 7 of that year, pronounced the United States freed and exonerated from the stipulations of the Treaties of 1778 with France.
Definitive resolution of this argument appears only remotely possible. Historical practice provides support for all three arguments and the judicial branch seems unlikely to essay any answer.
While abrogation of the French treaty, mentioned above, is apparently the only example of termination by Congress through a public law, many instances may be cited of congressional actions mandating terminations by notice of the President or changing the legal environment so that the President is required to terminate. The initial precedent in the instance of termination by notice pursuant to congressional action appears to have occurred in 1846,
Very few precedents exist in which the President terminated a treaty after obtaining the approval of the Senate alone. The first occurred in 1854-1855, when President Pierce requested and received Senate approval to terminate a treaty with Denmark.
Examples of treaty terminations in which the President acted alone are much disputed with respect both to facts and to the underlying legal circumstances.
No such ambiguity accompanied President Carter's action on the Taiwan treaty,
In the early cases of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia,
Later cases established that the power to make treaties with the Indian tribes was coextensive with the power to make treaties with foreign nations,
When, on the other hand, definite property rights have been conferred upon individual Native Americans, whether by treaty or under an act of Congress, they are protected by the Constitution to the same extent and in the same way as the private rights of other residents or citizens of the United States. Hence it was held that certain Indian allottees under an agreement according to which, in part consideration of their relinquishment of all their claim to tribal property, they were to receive in severalty allotments of lands which were to be nontaxable for a specified period, acquired vested rights of exemption from State taxation which were protected by the Fifth Amendment against abrogation by Congress.
A regular staple of each Term's docket of the Court is one or two cases calling for an interpretation of the rights of Native Americans under some treaty arrangement vis-a-vis the Federal Government or the States. Thus, though no treaties have been negotiated for decades and none presumably ever will again, litigation concerning old treaties seemingly will go on.
The capacity of the United States to enter into agreements with other nations is not exhausted in the treaty-making power. The Constitution recognizes a distinction between "treaties" and "agreements" or "compacts" but does not indicate what the difference is.
During the first half-century of its independence, the United States was party to sixty treaties but to only twenty-seven published executive agreements. By the beginning of World War II, there had been concluded approximately 800 treaties and 1,200 executive agreements. In the period 1940-1989, the Nation entered into 759 treaties and into 13,016 published executive agreements. Cumulatively, in 1989, the United states was a party to 890 treaties and 5,117 executive agreements. To phrase it comparatively, in the first 50 years of its history, the United States concluded twice as many treaties as executive agreements. In the 50-year period from 1839 to 1889, a few more executive agreements than treaties were entered into. From 1889 to 1939, almost twice as many executive agreements as treaties were concluded. Between 1939 and 1993, executive agreements comprised more than 90% of the international agreements concluded.
One must, of course, interpret the raw figures carefully. Only a very small minority of all the executive agreements entered into were based solely on the powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief and organ of foreign relations; the remainder were authorized in advance by Congress by statute or by treaty provisions ratified by the Senate.
Congress early authorized officers of the executive branch to enter into negotiations and to conclude agreements with foreign governments, authorizing the borrowing of money from foreign countries
The United Nations Participation Act of December 20, 1945, implements these provisions as follows: "The President is authorized to negotiate a special agreement or agreements with the Security Council which shall be subject to the approval of the Congress by appropriate Act or joint resolution, providing for the numbers and types of armed forces, their degree of readiness and general location, and the nature of facilities and assistance, including rights of passage, to be made available to the Security Council on its call for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security in accordance with article 43 of said Charter. The President shall not be deemed to require the authorization of the Congress to make available to the Security Council on its call in order to take action under article 42 of said Charter and pursuant to such special agreement or agreements the armed forces, facilities, or assistance provided for therein: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed as an authorization to the President by the Congress to make available to the Security Council for such purpose armed forces, facilities, or assistance in addition to the forces, facilities, and assistance provided for in such special agreement or agreements."
Many types of executive agreements comprise the ordinary daily grist of the diplomatic mill. Among these are such as apply to minor territorial adjustments, boundary rectifications, the policing of boundaries, the regulation of fishing rights, private pecuniary claims against another government or its nationals, in Story's words, "the mere private rights of sovereignty."
An early instance of executive treaty-making was the agreement by which President Monroe in 1817 brought about a delimitation of armaments on the Great Lakes. The arrangement was effected by an exchange of notes, which nearly a year later were laid before the Senate with a query as to whether it was within the President's power, or whether advice and consent of the Senate was required. The Senate approved the agreement by the required two-thirds vote, and it was forthwith proclaimed by the President without there having been a formal exchange of ratifications.
Notable expansion of presidential power in this field first became manifest in the administration of President McKinley. At the outset of war with Spain, the President proclaimed that the United States would consider itself bound for the duration by the last three principles of the Declaration of Paris, a course which, as Professor Wright observes, "would doubtless go far toward establishing these three principles as international law obligatory upon the United States in future wars."
It was during this period, too, that John Hay, as McKinley's Secretary of State, initiated his "Open Door" policy, by notes to Great Britain, Germany, and Russia, which were soon followed by similar notes to France, Italy and Japan. These in substance asked the recipients to declare formally that they would not seek to enlarge their respective interests in China at the expense of any of the others; and all responded favorably.
When the President enters into an executive agreement, what sort of obligation is thereby imposed upon the United States? That international obligations of potentially serious consequences may be imposed is obvious and that such obligations may linger for long periods of time is equally obvious.
Initially, it was the view of most judges and scholars that executive agreements based solely on presidential power did not become the "law of the land" pursuant to the Supremacy Clause because such agreements are not "treaties" ratified by the Senate.
In United States v. Pink,
"It is, of course, true that even treaties with foreign nations will be carefully construed so as not to derogate from the authority and jurisdiction of the States of this nation unless clearly necessary to effectuate the national policy.... But state law must yield when it is inconsistent with, or impairs the policy or provisions of, a treaty or of an international compact or agreement.... Then, the power of a State to refuse enforcement of rights based on foreign law which runs counter to the public policy of the forum . . . must give way before the superior Federal policy evidenced by a treaty or international compact or agreement... ."
"The action of New York in this case amounts in substance to a rejection of a part of the policy underlying recognition by this nation of Soviet Russia. Such power is not accorded a State in our constitutional system. To permit it would be to sanction a dangerous invasion of Federal authority. For it would 'imperil the amicable relations between governments and vex the peace of nations.' ... It would tend to disturb that equilibrium in our foreign relations which the political departments of our national government has diligently endeavored to establish... ."
"No State can rewrite our foreign policy to conform to its own domestic policies. Power over external affairs is not shared by the States; it is vested in the national government exclusively. It need not be so exercised as to conform to State laws or State policies, whether they be expressed in constitutions, statutes, or judicial decrees. And the policies of the States become wholly irrelevant to judicial inquiry when the United States, acting within its constitutional sphere, seeks enforcement of its foreign policy in the courts."
Belmont and Pink were reinforced in American Insurance Association v. Garamendi.
If the foreign relations power is truly an exclusive federal power, with no role for the states, a logical consequence is that some state laws impinging on foreign relations are invalid even in the absence of already-established federal policy. The Supreme Court has so stated and so held. There is, in effect, a "dormant" foreign relations power. The scope of this power remains undefined, however, and its constitutional basis is debated by scholars.
The exclusive nature of the federal foreign relations power has long been asserted by the Supreme Court. In 1840, for example, the Court declared that "it was one of the main objects of the constitution to make us, so far as regarded our foreign relations, one people, and one nation; and to cut off all communications between foreign governments, and the several state authorities."
It was not until 1968, however, that the Court applied the general principle to invalidate a state law for impinging on the nation's foreign policy interests in the absence of an established federal policy. In Zschernig v. Miller,
Zschernig lay dormant for some time, and, although it has been addressed recently by the Court, it remains the only holding in which the Court has applied a dormant foreign relations power to strike down state law. There was renewed academic interest in Zschernig in the 1990s, as some state and local governments sought ways to express dissatisfaction with human rights policies of foreign governments or to curtail trade with out-of-favor countries.
Dictum in Garamendi recognizes some of the questions that can be raised about Zschernig. The Zschernig Court did not identify what language in the Constitution mandates preemption, and commentators have observed that a respectable argument can be made that the Constitution does not require a general foreign affairs preemption not tied to the Supremacy Clause, and broader than and independent of the Constitution's specific prohibitions
"An office is a public station, or employment, conferred by the appointment of government. The term embraces the ideas of tenure, duration, emolument, and duties."
In 1814, however, when President Madison appointed, during a recess of the Senate, the Commissioners who negotiated the Treaty of Ghent, the theory on which the above legislation was based was drawn into question. Inasmuch, it was argued, as these offices had never been established by law, no vacancy existed to which the President could constitutionally make a recess appointment. To this argument, it was answered that the Constitution recognizes "two descriptions of offices altogether different in their nature, authorized by the constitution-one to be created by law, and the other depending for their existence and continuance upon contingencies. Of the first kind, are judicial, revenue, and similar offices. Of the second, are Ambassadors, other public Ministers, and Consuls. The first descriptions organize the Government and give it efficacy. They form the internal system, and are susceptible of precise enumeration. When and how they are created, and when and how they become vacant, may always be ascertained with perfect precision. Not so with the second description. They depend for their original existence upon the law, but are the offspring of the state of our relations with foreign nations, and must necessarily be governed by distinct rules. As an independent power, the United States have relations with all other independent powers; and the management of those relations is vested in the Executive."
By the opening section of the act of March 1, 1855, it was provided that "from and after the thirtieth day of June next, the President of the United States shall, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint representatives of the grade of envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary," with a specified annual compensation for each, "to the following countries... ." In the body of the act was also this provision: "The President shall appoint no other than citizens of the United States, who are residents thereof, or who shall be abroad in the employment of the Government at the time of their appointment. . . ."
This line of reasoning is only partially descriptive of the facts. The Foreign Service Act of 1946,
"These instances show that, even prior to the establishment of the Federal Government, secret plenipotentiaries were known, as well in the practice of our own country as in the general law of nations: and that these secret agents were not on a level with messengers, letter carriers, or spies, to whom it has been found necessary in argument to assimilate them. On the 30th March, 1795, in the recess of the Senate, by letters patent under the great broad seal of the United States, and the signature of their President, (that President being George Washington,) countersigned by the Secretary of State, David Humphreys was appointed commissioner plenipotentiary for negotiating a treaty of peace with Algiers. By instructions from the President, he was afterwards authorized to employ Joseph Donaldson as agent in that business. In May, of the same year, he did appoint Donaldson, who went to Algiers, and in September of the same year concluded a treaty with the Dey and Divan, which was confirmed by Humphreys, at Lisbon, on the 28th November in the same year, and afterwards ratified by the Senate, and an act passed both Houses on 6th May, 1796, appropriating a large sum, twenty-five thousand dollars annually, for carrying it into effect."
The precedent afforded by Humphreys' appointment without reference to the Senate has since been multiplied many times,
How is the practice to be squared with the express words of the Constitution? Apparently, by stressing the fact that such appointments or designations are ordinarily merely temporary and for special tasks, and hence do not fulfill the tests of "office" in the strict sense. In the same way the not infrequent practice of Presidents of appointing Members of Congress as commissioners to negotiate treaties and agreements with foreign governments may be regularized, notwithstanding the provision of Article I, § 6, clause 2 of the Constitution, which provides that "no Senator or Representative shall . . . be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created," during his term; and no officer of the United States, "shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office."
That the Constitution distinguishes between the creation of an office and appointment thereto for the generality of national offices has never been questioned. The former is by law and takes place by virtue of Congress' power to pass all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers which the Constitution confers upon the government of the United States and its departments and officers.
But when Congress contrived actually to participate in the appointment and administrative process and provided for selection of the members of the Federal Election Commission, two by the President, two by the Senate, and two by the House, with confirmation of all six members vested in both the House and the Senate, the Court unanimously held the scheme to violate the appointments clause and the principle of separation of powers. The term "officers of the United States" is a substantive one requiring that any appointee exercising significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States be appointed in the manner prescribed by the appointments clause.
Congress is authorized by the appointments clause to vest the appointment of "inferior Officers," at its discretion, "in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments." Principal questions arising under this portion of the clause are "Who are 'inferior officers,"' and "what are the 'Departments"' whose heads may be given appointing power?
Thus, officers who are not "inferior Officers" are principal officers who must be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate in order to make sure that all the business of the Executive will be conducted under the supervision of officers appointed by the President with Senate approval.
The Appointments Clause prevents Congress from distributing power too widely by limiting the actors in whom Congress may vest the power to appoint. The Clause reflects our Framers' conclusion that widely distributed appointment power subverts democratic government. Given the inexorable presence of the administrative state, a holding that every organ in the executive Branch is a department would multiply the number of actors eligible to appoint."
Yet, even agreed on the principle, the Freytag Court split 5-to-4 on the reason for the permissibility of the Chief Judge of the Tax Court to appoint special trial judges. The entire Court agreed that the Tax Court had to be either a "department" or a "court of law" in order for the authority to be exercised by the Chief Judge, and it unanimously agreed that the statutory provision was constitutional. But there agreement ended. The majority was of the opinion that the Tax Court could not be a department, but it was unclear what those Justices thought a department comprehended. Seemingly, it started from the premise that departments were those parts of the executive establishment called departments and headed by a cabinet officer.
The Freytag decision must be considered a tentative rather than a settled construction.
The close division of the Court means that new Court appointments, some of which have already occurred, could change the construction.
As noted, the appointments clause also authorizes Congress to vest the power in "Courts of Law." Must the power to appoint when lodged in courts be limited to those officers acting in the judicial branch, as the Court first suggested?
By the Hatch Act,
A divided Court, speaking through Chief Justice Taft, held the order of removal valid and the statutory provision just quoted void. The Chief Justice's main reliance was on the so- called "decision of 1789," the reference being to Congress' course that year in inserting in the act establishing the Department of State a proviso which was meant to imply recognition that the Secretary would be removable by the President at will. The proviso was especially urged by Madison, who invoked in support of it the opening words of Article II and the President's duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Succeeding passages of the Chief Justice's opinion erected on this basis a highly selective account of doctrine and practice regarding the removal power down to the Civil War, which was held to yield the following results: "That article II grants to the President the executive power of the Government, i.e., the general administrative control of those executing the laws, including the power of appointment and removal of executive officers-a conclusion confirmed by his obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed; that article II excludes the exercise of legislative power by Congress to provide for appointments and removals, except only as granted therein to Congress in the matter of inferior offices; that Congress is only given power to provide for appointments and removals of inferior officers after it has vested, and on condition that it does vest, their appointment in other authority than the President with the Senate's consent; that the provisions of the second section of Article II, which blend action by the legislative branch, or by part of it, in the work of the executive, are limitations to be strictly construed and not to be extended by implication; that the President's power of removal is further established as an incident to his specifically enumerated function of appointment by and with the advice of the Senate, but that such incident does not by implication extend to removals the Senate's power of checking appointments; and finally that to hold otherwise would make it impossible for the President, in case of political or other differences with the Senate or Congress, to take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
The holding in the Myers case boils down to the proposition that the Constitution endows the President with an illimitable power to remove all officers in whose appointment he has participated with the exception of judges of the United States. The motivation of the holding was not, it may be assumed, any ambition on the Chief Justice's part to set history aright-or awry.
"The Federal Trade Commission is an administrative body created by Congress to carry into effect legislative policies embodied in the statute.... Such a body cannot in any proper sense be characterized as an arm or eye of the executive. Its duties are performed without executive leave and, in the contemplation of the statute, must be free from executive control.... We think it plain under the Constitution that illimitable power of removal is not possessed by the President in respect of officers of the character of those just named, [the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Court of Claims]. The authority of Congress, in creating quasi-legislative or quasi-judicial agencies, to require them to act in discharge of their duties independently of executive control cannot well be doubted; and that authority includes, as an appropriate incident, power to fix the period during which they shall continue in office, and to forbid their removal except for cause in the meantime. For it is quite evident that one who holds his office only during the pleasure of another, cannot be depended upon to maintain an attitude of independence against the latter's will... ."
"The result of what we now have said is this: Whether the power of the President to remove an officer shall prevail over the authority of Congress to condition the power by fixing a definite term and precluding a removal except for cause, will depend upon the character of the office; the Myers decision, affirming the power of the President alone to make the removal, is confined to purely executive officers; and as to officers of the kind here under consideration, we hold that no removal can be made during the prescribed term for which the officer is appointed, except for one or more of the causes named in the applicable statute."
In Bowsher v. Synar,
Relying expressly upon Myers, the Court concluded that "Congress cannot reserve for itself the power of removal of an officer charged with the execution of the laws except by impeachment."
That case sustained the independent counsel statute.
The Court discerned no compelling reason to find the good cause limit to interfere with the President's performance of his duties. The independent counsel did exercise executive, law- enforcement functions, but the jurisdiction and tenure of each counsel were limited in scope and policymaking, or significant administrative authority was lacking. On the other hand, the removal authority did afford the President through the Attorney General power to ensure the "faithful execution" of the laws by assuring that the counsel is competently performing the statutory duties of the office.
It is now thus reaffirmed that Congress may not involve itself in the removal of officials performing executive functions. It is also established that, in creating offices in the executive branch and in creating independent agencies, Congress has considerable discretion in statutorily limiting the power to remove of the President or another appointing authority. It is evident on the face of the opinion that the discretion is not unbounded, that there are offices which may be essential to the President's performance of his constitutionally assigned powers and duties, so that limits on removal would be impermissible. There are no bright lines marking off one office from the other, but decision requires close analysis.
As a result of these cases, the long-running controversy with respect to the legitimacy of the independent agencies appears to have been settled,
Presidents have more than once had occasion to stand in a protective relation to their subordinates, assuming their defense in litigation brought against them
Following years in which claims of executive privilege were resolved in primarily interbranch disputes on the basis of the political strengths of the parties, the issue finally became subject to judicial elaboration. The doctrine of executive privilege was at once recognized as existing and having a constitutional foundation while at the same time it was definitely bounded in its assertion by the principle of judicial review. Because of these cases, because of the intensified congressional-presidential dispute, and especially because of the introduction of the issue into an impeachment proceeding, a somewhat lengthy treatment of the doctrine is called for.
Conceptually, the doctrine of executive privilege may well reflect different considerations in different factual situations. Congress may seek information within the possession of the President, either in effectuation of its investigatory powers to oversee the conduct of officials of the Executive Branch or in effectuation of its power to impeach the President, Vice President, or civil officers of the Government. Private parties may seek information in the possession of the President either in civil litigation with the Government or in a criminal proceeding brought by government prosecutors. Generally, the categories of executive privilege have been the same whether it is Congress or a private individual seeking the information, but it is possible that the congressional assertion of need may over-balance the presidential claim to a greater degree than that of a private individual. The judicial precedents are so meager yet that it is not possible so to state, however.
The doctrine of executive privilege defines the authority of the President to withhold documents or information in his possession or in the possession of the executive branch from compulsory process of the legislative or judicial branch of the government. The Constitution does not expressly confer upon the Executive Branch any such privilege, but it has been claimed that the privilege derives from the constitutional provision of separation of powers and from a necessary and proper concept respecting the carrying out of the duties of the presidency imposed by the Constitution. Historically, assertion of the doctrine has been largely confined to the areas of foreign relations, military affairs, pending investigations, and intragovernmental discussions.
The civil type of case is illustrated in United States v. Reynolds,
Presidential communications, the Court said, have "a presumptive privilege." "The privilege is fundamental to the operation of government and inextricably rooted in the separation of powers under the Constitution." The operation of government is furthered by the protection accorded communications between high government officials and those who advise and assist them in the performance of their duties. "A President and those who assist him must be free to explore alternatives in the process of shaping policies and making decisions and to do so in a way many would be unwilling to express except privately." The separation of powers basis derives from the conferral upon each of the branches of the Federal Government of powers to be exercised by each of them in great measure independent of the other branches. The confidentiality of presidential conversations flows then from the effectuation of enumerated powers.
However, the Court continued, the privilege is not absolute. The federal courts have the power to construe and delineate claims arising under express and implied powers. Deference is owed the constitutional decisions of the other branches, but it is the function of the courts to exercise the judicial power, "to say what the law is." The Judicial Branch has the obligation to do justice in criminal prosecutions, which involves the employment of an adversary system of criminal justice in which all the probative facts, save those clearly privileged, are to be made available. Thus, while the President's claim of privilege is entitled to deference, the courts must balance two sets of interests when the claim depends solely on a broad, undifferentiated claim of confidentiality.
"In this case we must weigh the importance of the general privilege of confidentiality of presidential communications in performance of his responsibilities against the inroads of such a privilege on the fair administration of criminal justice. The interest in preserving confidentiality is weighty indeed and entitled to great respect. However we cannot conclude that advisers will be moved to temper the candor of their remarks by the infrequent occasions of disclosure because of the possibility that such conversations will be called for in the context of a criminal prosecution."
"On the other hand, the allowance of the privilege to withhold evidence that is demonstrably relevant in a criminal trial would cut deeply into the guarantee of due process of law and gravely impair the basic function of the courts. A President's acknowledged need for confidentiality in the communications of his office is general in nature, whereas the constitutional need for production of relevant evidence in a criminal proceeding is specific and central to the fair adjudication of a particular criminal case in the administration of justice. ..."
"We conclude that when the ground for asserting privilege as to subpoenaed materials sought for use in a criminal trial is based only on the generalized interest in confidentiality, it cannot prevail over the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of criminal justice."
Obviously, this decision leaves much unresolved. It does recognize the constitutional status of executive privilege as a doctrine. It does affirm the power of the courts to resolve disputes over claims of the privilege. But it leaves unsettled just how much power the courts have to review claims of privilege to protect what are claimed to be military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets. It does not indicate what the status of the claim of confidentiality of conversations is when it is raised in civil cases; nor does it touch upon denial of information to Congress.
Neither does the Court's decision in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services
Public disclosure was at issue in 2004 when the Court weighed a claim of executive privilege asserted as a bar to discovery orders for information disclosing the identities of individuals who served on an energy task force chaired by the Vice President.
Until quite recently, all disputes between the President and Congress with regard to requests for information were settled in the political arena, with the result that few if any lasting precedents were created and only disputed claims were left to future argument. The Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, however, elected to seek a declaratory judgment in the courts with respect to the President's obligations to obey its subpoenas. The Committee lost its case, but the courts based their rulings upon prudential considerations rather than upon questions of basic power, inasmuch as by the time the case was considered impeachment proceedings were pending in the House of Representatives.
Clause 3. The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Setting out from the proposition that the very nature of the executive power requires that it shall always be "in capacity for action," Attorneys General early came to interpret the word "happen" in the phrase "all vacancies that may happen" to mean "happen to exist," and long continued practice securely establishes this construction. It results that whenever a vacancy may have occurred in the first instance, or for whatever reason, if it still continues after the Senate has ceased to sit and so cannot be consulted, the President may fill it in the way described.
Federal judges clearly fall within the terms of the recess-appointments clause. But, unlike with other offices, a problem exists. Article III judges are appointed "during good behavior," subject only to removal through impeachment. A judge, however, who is given a recess appointment may be "removed" by the Senate's failure to advise and consent to his appointment; moreover, on the bench, prior to Senate confirmation, she may be subject to influence not felt by other judges. Nonetheless, a constitutional attack upon the status of a federal district judge, given a recess appointment and then withdrawn as a nominee, was rejected by a federal court.
To be distinguished from the power to make recess appointments is the power of the President to make temporary or ad interim designations of officials to perform the duties of other absent officials. Usually such a situation is provided for in advance by a statute which designates the inferior officer who is to act in place of his immediate superior. But in the lack of such provision, both theory and practice concede the President the power to make the designation.
After discussing several reasons establishing the wisdom of the decision, the Secretary continued: "The President agreed, moved also, I think, by another passionately held conviction. His great office was to him a sacred and temporary trust, which he was determined to pass on unimpaired by the slightest loss of power or prestige. This attitude would incline him strongly against any attempt to divert criticism from himself by action that might establish a precedent in derogation of presidential power to send our forces into battle. The memorandum that we prepared listed eighty-seven instances in the past century in which his predecessors had done this. And thus yet another decision was made." D. ACHESON, PRESENT AT THE CREATION 414, 415 (1969).
Restatement, Foreign Relations, supra, § 701, Reporters' Note 5, pp. 155-56.
A further contention is that while foreign territory can be annexed to the United States by the treaty power, it could not be incorporated with the United States except with the consent of Congress. Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 , 310 - 344 (1901) (four Justices dissenting). This argument appears to be a variation of the one in regard to the correct procedure to give domestic effect to treaties.
Another argument grew out the XII Hague Convention of 1907, proposing an International Prize Court with appellate jurisdiction from national courts in prize cases. President Taft objected that no treaty could transfer to a tribunal not known to the Constitution any part of the judicial power of the United States and a compromise was arranged. Q. Wright, supra, at 117-118; H. REP. NO. 1569, 68th Congress, 2d Sess. (1925).
The term may be a synonym; it is not an argument." Id. at 451.