Congressional efforts to curb the practice of executive agreements and stem the tide of unilateralism have been largely unsuccessful. The first and most important effort came in 1951, when Senator John Bricker proposed a constitutional amendment to limit the use and impact of executive agreements and treaties within the United States. Bricker Amendment supporters, including the leaders of the American Bar Association, found virtue in the proposal for a variety of reasons. Some, as Alexander DeConde explained, «have become angry at executive agreements like Yalta`s» and have tried to reduce the president`s unilateralism on foreign policy. Others feared the impact of treaties such as the United Nations Charter, the Genocide Convention and the United Nations draft peace on human rights within the United States. Still others supported them as a useful «isolationist» response to «the internationalism of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. The Constitution says nothing about how contracts could be terminated. The breach of two contracts under the Jimmy Carter government has been controversial. In 1978, the president terminated the U.S. defense treaty with Taiwan to facilitate the establishment of diplomatic relations with the People`s Republic of China.
Also in 1978, the new Panama Canal agreements replaced three old contracts with Panama. In one case, the president acted unilaterally; in the second, it terminated the contracts in accordance with the measures of Congress. Only once did Congress terminate a treaty by a joint resolution; it was a mutual defense treaty with France, which Congress declared the United States «liberated and unloaded» in 1798. In this case, the breach of the treaty is almost akin to an act of war; Indeed, two days later, Congress authorized hostilities against France, which were narrowly averted An executive agreement is an agreement between the heads of government of two or more nations that has not been ratified by the legislature, since the treaties are ratified. Executive agreements are considered politically binding to distinguish them from legally binding contracts. Congress has tried to limit the practice of creating secret executive agreements. In 1969 and 1970, a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee learned that U.S. presidents had negotiated important in-disguise agreements with South Korea, Laos, Thailand, Ethiopia and Spain, as well as with other nations. In response, Congress passed the Case Act of 1972, which requires the Secretary of State to submit to Congress, within sixty days, the text of «any international agreement, except a treaty» to which the United States belonged. If the president decides that the publication would endanger national security, he could forward it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee under an abstention order, which is revoked only by the President.
But Nixon`s presidents in Clinton ignored or circumvented the statute, and congressional implementation efforts were largely ineffective.