United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp.

Facts

Congress placed an outright restriction – through a joint resolution – on the shipment of weapons to South American countries participating in the “Chaco War.”  Pursuant to the resolution, the President FDR enacted such an embargo.  Curtiss-Wright violated the embargo.  At trial they argued that Congress had incorrectly given their legislative authority to the executive branch, thereby rendering the embargo void.

Issue

Whether Congress can delegate legislative authority to the executive branch in foreign policy issues.

Analysis/Holding

No, the resolution is valid.  The “origin and nature” of the President’s power to address foreign affairs is very different from his other powers.   The President’s domestic powers are much more limited. The President’s authority relating to foreign affairs are “not dependent solely upon the affirmative grants of the Constitution.”  The President is in a better position to handle foreign affairs than Congress.  The system is set up so that the Executive receives classified information that the legislature does not, negotiates treaties where the Congress does not, and is the primary representative of the United States in foreign affairs relations.  The Court argued “there is sufficient warrant for the broad discretion vested in the President to determine whether the enforcement of the statute will have a beneficial effect upon the reestablishment of peace in the affected countries.”  The Executive’s authority in foreign affairs is not limitless, however.  There are still provisions of his power which must be shared with Congress.

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