Executive Power

Hoover Task Force Short Essay #4: "Executive-Congressional Relations and National Security"

By Benjamin Wittes
Monday, January 28, 2013, 9:01 AM

The fourth installment in the Hoover Institution’s series of short essays on national security challenges for the Obama administration’s second term is now out. It is by yet another Lawfare member---Matt---and is entitled, "Executive-Congressional Relations and National Security." It opens:

The last four years should have been a good period for executive-congressional relations in the areas of national security and foreign affairs.  The president, vice president, and secretary of state were former Senators.  They all viewed President George W. Bush as too inclined to bypass or ignore Congress and they promised to do better.  And the Obama administration started with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

It is thus surprising that the past four years have been notable for inter-branch clashes and paralysis on some major national security agenda items, with the administration failing to engage Congress or operating in a slowly reactive mode, while many congressional Republicans remain in an obstructionist mode.  In the second term, the Obama administration will need to pick its legislative priorities more deliberately, engage with allies and opponents in Congress more actively, and be willing to negotiate compromises or wage aggressive campaigns on key issues.