Treaty Politics and the Rise of Executive Agreements

International Commitments in a System of Shared Powers
Glen S. Krutz and Jeffrey S. Peake

Executive agreements offer both the president and Congress a more efficient way to conduct international affairs


In foreign relations, U.S. presidents have exercised a growing independence through the use of executive agreements. The U.S. Constitution specifies that two-thirds of the Senate must ratify a proposed treaty but makes no provision for other forms of international agreements. In 1942 the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of executive agreements, and since World War II, they have outnumbered treaties by more than ten to one. Are presidents trampling the Constitution or seeking to streamline the diplomatic process?

Glen S. Krutz and Jeffrey S. Peake argue that the preference for executive agreements is the result of a symbiotic evolution of the executive and the legislative branches and that in order for the United States to survive in a complex, ever-changing global environment and maintain its world power status, it must fulfill international commitments swiftly and confidently. Members of Congress concur that executive agreements allow each branch to function more effectively. At the same time, the House continues to oversee particular policy areas, and presidents still submit the majority of the most significant international commitments to the Senate as treaties.

Krutz and Peake conclude that executive agreements represent a mutual adaptation of the executive and the legislature in a system of shared power.

Glen S. Krutz is Associate Director of the Carl Albert Center and Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma.

Jeffrey S. Peake is Associate Professor of Political Science at Bowling Green State University.

Praise / Awards

  • "From reading Treaty Politics and the Rise of Executive Agreements, I learned a good deal about a topic that I thought I knew well. This book will be an excellent addition to the literature on the presidency, it will be read and cited by scholars working in this field."
    —Benjamin Ginsberg, Johns Hopkins University

  • "Glen Krutz and Jeffrey Peake's Treaty Politics and the Rise of Executive Agreements offers a provocative analysis of a neglected topic. Their theoretical and empirical challenge to the usual explanation for the growth of executive agreements, their careful analysis of the treaty process in the Senate and when that body can be decisive, and their assessment of the House of Representatives' role in the agreement process provide important new scholarship for students of the presidency, Congress, and foreign policy."
    —James M. McCormick, Iowa State University

  • "Krutz and Peake remind scholars to see the brilliance and adaptive capacity of the separation of powers system and to rethink the implications of presidential use of executive agreements.  By factoring in the role of the Senate and House in implementation, the authors demonstrate that executive agreements, rather than reflecting the demise of the separation of powers system, constitute pragmatic adaptations by coordinated institutions.  Krutz and Peake's examination of the increased use of executive agreements offers a valuable lesson in how the president and Congress have responded and adjusted to the growth in the complexity of foreign relations to meet the demands of an ever-increasingly complex and interconnected international community."
    —Victoria Farrar-Myers, University of Texas, Arlington

  • "This provocative and persuasive book is a direct challenge to the growing body of literature in the field of presidency studies that argues for a more unilateralist or direct action approach to the understanding of presidential power...One can only hope that this fine and challenging book starts an argument, or at least a dialogue, about presidential power in a post-Bush era. It merits the attention of presidency and congressional scholars, and those interested in the interaction of America's political institutions."
    —Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount University, for Journal of Politics

  • "Krutz and Peake reach their conclusions as a result of carefully crafted examination that might be cited as a model of political analysis of this sort...As [they] introduce each chapter with a summary of the argument as developed and supported to that point, the reader can enter into and understand their discussion and argument at virtually any point in the book. In sum, Treaty Politics and the Rise of Executive Agreements is a clearly written and important book that adds substantially to the existing literature on the presidency and on presidential-congressional relations. Of special note is the authors' challenge to the standard explanation of the growth of executive agreements and their emphasis on the important role of the House of Representatives in the process of approving international agreements."
    —Roger E. Kanet, University of Miami, for International Studies Review

  • "Krutz and Peake's book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on presidential-congressional relations on international agreements, and puts another stake in the heart of the "imperial presidency" argument. Their discussion of the formalized process that takes place within the State Department to determine the appropriate form of an agreements adds substantially to our understanding of the politics surrounding it. The authors' examination of delays surrounding treaty consent is also genuinely new, as are their results about ideological distance between the President and Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the distinction between high and low politics."
    —Lisa L. Martin, University of Wisconsin-Madision, for The American Review of Politics

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 264pp.
  • 7 Figures, 12 Tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03462-8

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  • $30.95 U.S.

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  • treaty, executive agreement, presidential-congressional relations, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, State Department, Institutional Change, international agreements