In a letter sent last month to House leadership and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, CREW, along with several other leading transparency groups including American Oversight, Government Accountability Project, Government Information Watch, National Security Archive, Open the Government, Protect Democracy and Transparency International urged support for Section 3310 of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, which recently passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote.
Protecting our democracy requires balancing the need for flexible and confidential international negotiations with improvements in accountability and transparency. The Case-Zablocki Act, enacted in 1972, empowered Congress to continue its oversight when the executive branch shifted its foreign negotiations away from the use of treaties to executive agreements that do not require the advice and consent of the Senate. Nearly fifty years later, the executive branch has shifted again, using non-binding arrangements and other instruments that have once again left Congress without the ability to conduct the oversight that our system of checks and balances requires and the ability to inspect that the American people must possess in order to be a well-informed citizenry. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 would update the Case Act to ensure the executive branch has the tools to protect the flexibility and confidentiality needed for international negotiations while maintaining critical improvements in accountability to Congress and public transparency.
Our constitutional democracy acknowledges the importance of congressional oversight of the executive’s major foreign policy actions. Without congressional involvement and oversight, one of the most significant functions of our government — advancing the interests of the American people through foreign policy — would happen without the ability for meaningful congressional oversight or public inspection.