The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was established in 1816 as one of the original ten standing committees of the Senate. Throughout its history, the committee has been instrumental in developing and influencing United States foreign policy, at different times supporting and opposing the policies of presidents and secretaries of state. The committee has considered, debated, and reported important treaties and legislation, ranging from the purchase of Alaska in 1867 to the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. It also holds jurisdiction over all diplomatic nominations. Through these powers, the committee has helped shape foreign policy of broad significance, in matters of war and peace and international relations. Members of the committee have assisted in the negotiation of treaties, and at times have helped to defeat treaties they felt were not in the national interest.
The Foreign Relations Committee was instrumental in the rejection of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and 1920, and in the passage of the Truman Doctrine in 1947 and Marshall Plan in 1948. A bipartisan spirit prevailed as the committee confronted the perils of the Cold War. However, the state of almost constant crisis that the Cold War spawned eventually resulted in the vast expansion of presidential authority over foreign policy. Since the 1960s, the committee has sought to redress this imbalance of powers.
Click here to read about the history of the committee from 1816 – 2000.
Click here to read the committee’s rules.
Click here to read the committee’s jurisdiction and subcommittee assignments.
Collected Volumes of Legislation on Foreign Relations
Legislation on Foreign Relations is a multi-volume, fully annotated compendium of legislation, Executive Orders, and treaties pertaining to U.S. foreign relations. Until 2005, it was generally prepared annually by the Congressional Research Service for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and House Committee on Foreign Affairs. It is used widely throughout all branches of federal government as the authoritative source for session law, related legislative history, and corresponding executive documents.
Click here to read Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2008, Volume l-A, of Volumes l-A and l-B
Click here to read Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2008, Volume ll-B, of Volumes ll-A and ll-B
Click here to read Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2005, Volume l-B of, Volumes l-A and l-B
Click here to read Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2005, Volume ll-A of, Volumes ll-A and ll-B
Click here to read Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2008, Volume V
Click here to read Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2008, Volume lV
Click here to read Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2008, Volume lll
History of the Committee Room
During the nineteenth century, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met in a variety of rooms in the United States Capitol. Following World War I, these accommodate the committee’s expanding responsibilities. In 1933 the committee moved into its current suite in the Capitol. While the Foreign Relations Committee maintains several offices spread over four buildings, the two rooms in the Capitol have become symbolic of the committee and its work.
These rooms, S–116 and S–117, were first occupied around 1859 with the completion of the new Senate wing of the Capitol. Until their assignment to the Foreign Relations Committee, the rooms housed a variety of tenants. Former occupants, whose names are reflective of the concerns of a growing nation, included the committees on Retrenchment, Patents, Agriculture, Immigration, Territories, Female Suffrage, and Naval Affairs. At the turn of the century, S–116 even served as the Senate’s post office.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee uses these rooms to receive visiting dignitaries and to conduct national security briefings and hearings in executive session. The rooms have hosted American presidents, heads of foreign nations, secretaries of state and defense, ambassadors, and others who have informed and advised the committee in its fulfillment of the Senate’s constitutional role in foreign policy.