The recent impeachment inquiry examined whether the president abused his office in dealing with a foreign power, and posed new challenges for a Congress seeking to exert oversight over the executive branch. This new level of tension between the branches adds to the list of divergences between the executive branch and Congress about the power to conduct and oversee foreign policy, from suspensions in foreign assistance, disputes over foreign arms sales, and the authorization for the use of military force. An important dimension of the conversation on congressional oversight over U.S. foreign policy concerns the extent to which greater transparency and accountability are needed — both between the branches themselves, and vis-à-vis the American public. Where does Congress go from here? What vulnerabilities lie ahead for our relationship with Ukraine and other allies? What are the consequences for our separation of powers and the conduct of foreign policy more broadly?
On February 13, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for an Alan and Jane Batkin International Leaders Forum. Senator Menendez gave remarks outlining a series of proposed reforms to address these questions and more, followed by a conversation on these themes with Thomas Wright, senior fellow and director of the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. Questions from the audience followed the discussion.