High profile, largely partisan, clashes over issues like war powers, Saudi Arabia, and the trade war, however, have obscured the opportunity for less charged, more institutionally effective ways for Congress to reassert its foreign policy prerogatives.
Chief among these is strengthening the House Democracy Partnership (HDP) and its sister legislative diplomatic institution, the Open World Leadership Center (OWLC). These agencies were created after the fall of the Soviet Union amidst a wave of democratizing legislatures. The HDP “works directly with countries around the world to support the development of effective, independent, and responsive legislative institutions.” The OWLC serves Members of Congress in their capacity for congressional diplomacy with strategically important countries.
Today, as democracy recedes around the world, the need for credible US promotion of strong, democratic institutions is more important than ever. Unfortunately, our executive branch is not perceived as leading by example. In this environment, and despite its razor-sharp partisan infighting, Congress as an institution still provides one of the most institutionalized and professionalized legislatures in the democratic world. As such, while its politics and procedures might leave much to be desired, in the nuts-and-bolts institution-building that makes a legislature run, there is much to be gained from a strengthened and bipartisan legislative diplomatic effort.