It's been claimed in an unsourced answer here that

It's an "H.R.". Meaning it's a "House Resolution". As such, the bill would not have any power in law. The domain of the foreign policy in the United States lies with the President of the United States, with advice and consent of the Senate.

The Constitution does not give the House of Representatives a role in shaping the foreign policy of the United States outside of its budgetary powers and the power to regulate commerce with foreign powers.

And extra claim in a comment by the answerer that even if were to pass the Senate etc.

In any case, it could be challenged (in court) on process because the House has no authority to initiate such sweeping diplomacy questions.

Is that really so? Are there any examples of bills on foreign policy that were found unconstitutional [by the courts] because they were initiated by the House of Representatives? (The bill in question involved withdrawing from a treaty, by the way. That in itself is in a constitutional grey area, IIRC--presidents have claimed they have that unilateral power, but it's not clear if nobody else has it--at least in terms of initiating a law like that.)

On a quick search, it appears to me that the Taiwan Relations Act was formally initiated by the House for instance. So that seems to contradict the quoted claim, at least in part. And the main purpose of the Act was to restrict the president from certain military options:

The TRA does not guarantee the U.S. will intervene militarily if the PRC attacks or invades Taiwan nor does it relinquish it, as its primary purpose is to ensure the US's Taiwan policy will not be changed unilaterally by the president and ensure any decision to defend Taiwan will be made with the consent of Congress. The act states that "the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability", and "shall maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan".

One might argue that providing Taiwan with weapons is 'commerce', but YMMV. Anyhow, the final bit seems mandate a certain course of military deployments or at least of military capabilities, for foreign policy purposes.

So, in case the claim is wrong (and no laws were found unconstitutional on this basis--that the House initiated some foreign policy bill), are there more clear examples than the Taiwan Relations Act of laws that are not about commerce nor about budgetary matters but pertain to foreign policy and were initiated in the House or Representatives?

  • 2
    A resolution of the House of Representatives does not in itself determine US foreign policy, but a statute passed by the House and by the Senate and signed by the President (or overriding a presidential veto) can, and can start in either in the House or in the Senate.
    – Henry
    Mar 3 at 22:07
  • The claim is wrong. While the House does have no say in agreeing to treaties, agreeing to treaties is not all there is regarding foreign policy. The Republican-led House passed that resolution as a resolution rather than as a bill because as a bill it would have had zero chance of getting approved in the Senate. The "Get the US out of the UN!" movement in the US is mostly far right wing and is rather old, probably as old as the UN itself. Mar 4 at 15:21

2 Answers 2


The Homeland Security Act of 2002 was also formally initiated by the House.

I suspect the author of that unsourced answer was interpreting the advice and consent clause regarding the Senate (but not the House) approving treaties proposed by the President to mean no action can be taken by the House whatsoever with regard to foreign policy.

The Treaty Clause of the US Constitution (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2) is very specific on how treaties with other countries come to be: The President proposes treaties to the Senate, which approves or rejects them. The House of Representatives indeed has no role in the formation of treaties. Treaties however are not the be-all and end-all of foreign policy.

An obvious example is declaration of war. The Constitution says that Congress (not the President) is responsible for declaring war on some other country. The Constitution does not limit proposed declarations of war to the Senate. Declarations of war can originate in the Senate or the House. Declaring war obviously has foreign policy impacts.

Moreover, the Constitution says nothing regarding which branch (or which part of which branch) of the US government can abrogate treaties. The Supreme Court in the Head Money Cases wrote that (emphasis mine)

A treaty is made by the President and the Senate. Statutes are made by the President, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. The addition of the latter body to the other two in making a law certainly does not render it less entitled to respect in the matter of its repeal or modification than a treaty made by the other two. If there be any difference in this regard, it would seem to be in favor of an act in which all three of the bodies participate. And such is, in fact, the case in a declaration of war, which must be made by Congress and which, when made, usually suspends or destroys existing treaties between the nations thus at war.

In other words, the House of Representatives can introduce legislation that terminates a treaty.

Finally, the Constitution does not limit laws that affect foreign policy to originating in the Senate. The aforementioned Homeland Security Act originated in the House, and this has obvious foreign policy impacts. While the National Security Act of 1947 originated in the Senate, several subsequent amendments to it originated in the House of Representatives. This act, and the subsequent amendments, had obvious foreign policy impacts. There have been several laws that directly impact foreign policy that originated in the House.


The US constitution gives the House the "power of the purse", i.e. originating bills to do with how money is raised and spent. This is also an angle on foreign policy. Especially with modern prominence of subsidies and sanctions as a foreign policy instrument.

As the question notes, there is an overlap here between the two powers we're talking about. The overlap is big enough to account for what we see.

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