From the Editor's Desk

November 19, 2018

All of the articles in this special edition newsletter (and on our website) are free to access until our paywall goes back up on November 26.


Two weeks after the U.S. midterm elections, there are races yet to be called, but the most consequential change was clear on election night: with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, President Donald Trump could face a real challenge on policy—including foreign policy—for the first time since his inauguration.


That Trump has had few checks on his foreign policy so far is less of a departure from recent history than much of the commentary suggests. Constraints on presidential power have been eroding for decades, argue James Goldgeier and Elizabeth N. Saunders in a recent Foreign Affairs essay, with results as evident under former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush as they are today. In the Trump administration so far, as Jeff Bergner and Sarah Binder have each pointed out, polarization and dysfunction have handicapped Congress even with a unified government. Now, Democrats have pledged that, with control of the House, they will wield legislative powers that have gone largely unused for years—setting up fights on a range of foreign policy and national security issues.


What, exactly, can Congress do? Quite a lot, according to Brian McKeon and Caroline Tess, veterans of both Capitol Hill and the executive branch, who write that Trump’s “free rein is over.” Congress “can fund programs it supports and withhold money from those it doesn’t. It can block initiatives that require legislation and use investigations to expose and curtail executive-branch wrongdoing. And it can reach out to allies and admonish adversaries.” 


Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Executive Editor


Foreign policy issues likely to be taken up by the next Congress include:

Russia and Election Interference


Iran After the Nuclear Deal


Military and Defense Policy


What do you think? We'd love your feedback on this newsletter.
Please email thoughts and suggestions to


© 2018 Council on Foreign Relations | 58 East 68 Street, New York NY | 10065

Customer Service:
If you need assistance, please email

This email was sent to Unsubscribe.
To ensure that you continue receiving our emails,
please add us to your address book or safe list.