O Discurso Jurídico Internacional do Congresso Estadunidense

AutorKevin L. Cope
CargoUniversity of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Estados Unidos
Congress’s International Legal Discourse1
O Discurso Jurídico Internacional do Congresso Estadunidense
Kevin L. Cope
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – MI, Estados Unidos
Abstract: Using an original dataset comprising
thirty years of legislative histories of U.S.
federal statutes, I show that, in debates
over bills whose enactment might trigger
international law violations, members of
Congress urge international law compliance
relatively often. The arguments are
overwhelmingly supportive of international
law and often phrased in legalistic terms. These
findings imply that members of Congress are
incentivized to take public pro-international
law positions by international law-minded
executive officials. The executive appears to
use congressional international law discourse to
boost the country’s international credibility and
strengthen the president’s hand in making and
enforcing future commitments.
Keywords: International Law. Congress. Inter-
national Relations. Foreign Policy. Legislation.
Constitutional Law.
Resumo: Lançando mão de um acervo de dados
original que compreende 30 anos de históricos
legislativos de estatutos federais estadunidenses,
o autor demonstra que, em debates sobre leis
cuja aprovação poderia levar a violações de di-
reito internacional, membros do Congresso invo-
cam observância a este com relativa frequência.
Os argumentos são amplamente favoráveis ao
direito internacional e frequentemente fraseados
em termos legalistas. Essas conclusões demons-
tram que membros do Congresso são incentiva-
dos a tomar posições públicas pró-direito inter-
nacional por oficiais executivos com tendências
internacionalistas. O executivo parece utilizar
do discurso congressista de direito internacional
para reforçar a credibilidade internacional do
país e fortalecer a posição do presidente para rea-
lizar e implementar obrigações futuras.
Palavras-chave: Direito Internacional. Con-
gresso. Relações Internacionais. Política Es-
trangeira. Legislação. Direito Constitucional.
1 Este artigo é uma republicação autorizada pelo autor conforme a seguinte referência:
Cope, Kevin L., Congress's International Legal Discourse (March 16, 2015). Michigan
Law Review, Vol. 113: 7 (2015).
Recebido em: 16/02/2016
Revisado em: 14/10/2016
Aprovado em: 20/10/2016
20 Seqüência (Florianópolis), n. 74, p. 19-96, dez. 2016
Congress’s International Legal Discourse
1 Introduction
The role of international law in both international relations and
state2 domestic affairs has grown markedly over the past several decades3.
In the United States, international conventions now cover numerous topics
that were once the sole domain of federal or U.S. state law4. As of 2012,
the United States was a party to at least 8,400 bilateral and multilateral
treaties, covering issues from chemical weapons to racial discrimination5.
Over roughly the same period, American jurists have gradually converged
on a “modern view” of customary international law (“CIL”), which holds
that CIL is a form of federal law enforceable in federal courts6. Together,
these trends have increased the political and practical relevance of these
law parlance, to denote a sovereign country.
3 See Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States pt. VII,
introductory note, at 144-145 (1987) (“[H]ow a state treats individual human beings,
including its own citizens, in respect of their human rights . . . is a matter of international
concern and a proper subject for regulation by international law.”); David M. Golove,
Treaty-Making and the Nation: The Historical Foundations of the Nationalist Conception
of the Treaty Power, 98 Mich. L. Rev. 1075, 1291 (2000) (“[W]ith globalization, the
matters appropriate for treaties have expanded and will continue to do so.”).
4 See Curtis A. Bradley, The Charming Betsy Canon and Separation of Powers: Rethinking
the Interpretive Role of International Law, 86 Geo. L.J. 479, 480 (1998) (“The number
of federal and state cases that raise international law issues has been growing rapidly.
And the international law invoked in these cases purports to regulate many matters
traditionally within domestic control.”).
5 U.S. Dep’t of State, Treaties in Force: A List of Treaties and Other International
Agreements of the United States in Force on January 1, 2013 (2013), available at http:/ /.
state.gov/ documents// .pdf.
6 See, e.g., Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States § 111
n.3 (“Customary international law is considered to be like common law in the United
States, but it is federal law.”); Louis Henkin, International Law as Law in the United
States, 82 Mich. L. Rev. 1555, 1555–61 (1984); Beth Stephens, The Law of Our Land:
Customary International Law as Federal Law After Erie, 66 Fordham L. Rev. 393, 418–
25 (1997); Carlos M. Vázquez, Customary International Law as U.S. Law: A Critique
of the Revisionist and Intermediate Positions and a Defense of the Modern Position, 86
Notre Dame L. Rev. 1495, 1515–38 (2011).
Seqüência (Florianópolis), n. 74, p. 19-96, dez. 2016 21
Kevin L. Cope
two forms of international law in the U.S. domestic system7. Perhaps as
a partial result, interest in topics at the nexus of international law and
domestic decision making has surged among legal scholars8.
That attention, however, has focused almost exclusively on the
courts9 and the president10. With the exception of Congress’s role in
approving and implementing international agreements, the impact of
international law in congressional lawmaking has been mostly ignored
by scholars11 . This is true despite the fact that under the U.S. system of
7 See David A. Koplow, Indisputable Violations: What Happens When the United States
Unambiguously Breaches a Treaty?)OHWFKHU):RUOG$൵±QRWLQJ
several mechanisms that lead the United States to violate treaty commitments and the
consequences thereof).
8 See, e.g., Curtis A. Bradley, International Law in the U.S. Legal System xi (2013)
(“The intersection between [...]. international law and the U.S. legal system has become
increasingly important. . . . U.S. courts . . . have seen a surge of cases in recent years
raising issues of international law.”); International Law in the U.S. Supreme Court:
Continuity and Change 1 (David L. Sloss et al. eds., 2011) [hereinafter Continuity and
international law in the [U.S.] Supreme Court…”).
9 See generally Continuity and Change, supra note 7; Carlos Manuel Vázquez, Treaties
as Law of the Land: The Supremacy Clause and the Judicial Enforcement of Treaties,
122 Harv. L. Rev. 599 (2008) (arguing that a default rule of treaty self-execution is
most appropriate); Melissa A. Waters, Creeping Monism: The Judicial Trend Toward
Interpretive Incorporation of Human Rights Treaties, 107 Colum. L. Rev. 628 (2007)
10 See, e.g., Curtis A. Bradley & Martin S. Flaherty, Executive Power Essentialism and
)RUHLJQ$ৼDLUV, 102 Mich. L. Rev. 545, 551 (2004) (challenging the so-called executive
“Vesting Clause Thesis,” which holds that the constitutional text vests broad executive
powers in the president); Saikrishna B. Prakash & Michael D. Ramsey, The Executive
3RZHURYHU )RUHLJQ$ৼDLUV, 111 Yale L.J. 231, 236 (2001) (“[T]he Constitution’s text
to amorphous and disputed extratextual sources.”); Bruce Fein, Attacking Syria: A War
of Aggression?+X൶QJWRQ 3RVW 1RY    30 KWWSKX൶QJWRQSRVWFRP
fein/ attacking-syriaa-war-of-a_b_4233682.html (challenging a former State Department
legal advisor’s view that the President has authority under constitutional and international
law to attack Syria).
11 See Harlan Grant Cohen, Historical American Perspectives on International Law, 15
ILSA J. Int’l & Comp. L. 485, 487 (2009) (describing how the great majority of legal-
history scholarship on the United States and international law focuses either on how

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