Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Reasserting Its Constitutional Role: Congress's Power To Independently Terminate a Treaty
ExpressO (2012)
  • David (Dj) C. Wolff
Who has the authority to terminate a treaty? The Constitution’s text is silent on the matter and historical precedent has been anything but consistent. Recently, the debate has focused on whether the President can unilaterally terminate a treaty without considering Congressional concerns: witness President Carter’s termination of the 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan and President Bush’s 2001 termination of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. There has been comparatively little analysis of the converse question; does Congress have the unilateral power to terminate a treaty in the face of Presidential opposition? This question invokes strong separation of powers considerations; can the President ignore legislative opposition to a treaty’s continuation, unilaterally binding the U.S. to its foreign commitments. Relying on an analysis of the Constitution, the Framer’s intent and the historical precedents from 1789 to today, the article concludes that Congress does have the constitutional authority to terminate a treaty and that the President is thereby constitutionally bound to consider Congressional objections to a treaty’s continuation. The article concludes by laying out the tools Congress has to enforce its treaty termination power over Presidential opposition.
  • Separation of powers,
  • constitutional law,
  • foreign affairs
Publication Date
January 14, 2012
Citation Information
David (Dj) C. Wolff. "Reasserting Its Constitutional Role: Congress's Power To Independently Terminate a Treaty" ExpressO (2012)
Available at: