The Supreme Court refused to decide whether President Jimmy Carter had the authority to terminate a treaty without the approval of the Senate, but the majority could not agree about why the issue was nonjusticiable.
In December, 1979, President Jimmy Carter announced that he was establishing full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, an action that required terminating the Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan. In view of the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that a treaty must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate, Senator Barry Goldwater and twenty-four other members of Congress filed a suit contesting the president’s right to unilaterally terminate a treaty. A federal court of appeals ruled in favor of the president.
By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court summarily vacated the ruling and dismissed the complaint. In one concurring opinion, Justice William H. Rehnquist, joined by three other justices, argued that a disagreement between the president and members of Congress was a nonjusticiable political controversy. In another concurrence, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., found that the issue was “not ripe for judicial review” because a congressional majority had not opposed the president’s policy. Justice Thurgood Marshall concurred without writing or joining an opinion. In a dissent, two justices insisted that the Court should not render a decision about justiciability without first hearing oral arguments. In another dissent, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., argued that the Court should uphold the judgment of the court of appeals.
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Foreign affairs and foreign policy
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