A Battle against the Imperial Presidency

by Gregory Bresiger, FFF.org

George Bush, basically unchallenged by Congress in his calamitous war in Iraq, can thank several of his Republican predecessors for his imperial power.

Out of power for some 20 years in the early 1950s, many Republicans had been critics of the secretive foreign policy of Democratic presidents in the 1930s and 1940s. These were the Republicans who supported the Bricker amendment, which aimed to rein in the power of presidents.

The Bricker amendment’s intent was at least twofold.

First, it would prevent presidential executive agreements from undermining the powers of the states as detailed in the Tenth Amendment. Since the Supreme Court had held that treaties, which require the approval of the Senate, override Tenth Amendment provisions, critics feared that executive agreements, which would be issued by imperial presidents without Senate consent, would constitute an even graver assault on the Tenth Amendment.