Goldwater v. Carter, 444 U.S. 996; 100 S. Ct. 533; 62 L. Ed. 2d 428 (1979)

Goldwater v. Carter, 444 U.S. 996; 100 S. Ct. 533; 62 L. Ed. 2d 428 (1979)

Facts—The U.S. Constitution requires Senate approval of treaties but is silent as to their termination. After the U.S. recognized the People’s Republic of China, President Jimmy Carter terminated a treaty the United States had with Taiwan (the other nation, located on the island of Formosa, that claimed to represent the Chinese people). Senator Barry Goldwater and other members of the U.S. Congress questioned his authority to do so. The U.S. District Court dismissed the case, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the president had authority under his power to recognize foreign governments.

Question—Will the Court take cognizance of a case in which members of Con- gress challenge a presidential termination of a treaty without Senate approval?

Decision—Not in this case.

Reasons—(6–3). The Court issued a summary judgment to the U.S. District Court to vacate its judgment and dismiss the complaint.

J. Powell, concurring, believed the case was “not ripe for judicial review,” because Congress had taken no official action regarding Carter’s termina- tion of the treaty. Powell did not, however, believe that such an issue was a nonjusticiable political question. He did not believe the Constitution had entrusted this issue to a coordinate branch of government; he believed that the judiciary could fashion standards to resolve this issue; and he saw little likeli- hood that the decision would embarrass another of the political branches.

J. Rehnquist, concurring (4 votes), believed the issue was “political” because “it involves the authority of the President in the conduct of our country’s foreign relations and the extent to which the Senate or the Congress is authorized to negate the action of the President.”

J. Blackmun, dissenting, wanted to schedule the case for oral argument and give it full consideration.

J. Brennan, dissenting, would affirm the Court of Appeals decision and side with the president on the basis that “the Constitution commits to the President alone the power to recognize, and withdraw recognition from, foreign regimes.”

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