Senate Foreign Relations Committee: What is It and What is Its Purpose?

Author: Notre Dame International Security Center

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Did you know that there are multiple factors and institutions that help shape the foreign policy of the United States and that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is one of them? Senate Committees are essential: they monitor operations of the government, recommend any course of action that needs to be taken to the Senate, gather and evaluate any important information that needs to be discussed and identify any issues that need to be addressed for legislative review.  


What is the Senate Foreign Relation Committee? 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was initially created to handle foreign policy with other nations, one of the main concerns of the Senate at the time. It became involved with other future foreign affairs through the course of history. It plays a role in making decisions about foreign affairs today. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was established in 1816 and is one of the oldest Senate committees. They are an essential part of the government in developing and influencing the United States Foreign Policy: overseeing all foreign policy legislation and foreign aid programs.  

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee supports and opposes the policies of Presidents and Secretaries of State and is the only committee in the Senate with jurisdictions to review—via public hearings—treaties that the President proposed to the Senate. 

It is currently comprised of many influential Senators as members including Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, and Todd Young who bring publicity to the Committee. Some recent presidents who were on the the committee include John F. Kennedy, Barrack Obama, and Joe Biden. 


Subcommittees that Oversee the United States Agency for Interaction Development in Department of State.  

Senate Foreign Relations Committee has subcommittees that administer foreign aid to socioeconomic development nations and national disasters. These include: 

  • Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women's Issues 

  • Europe and Regional Security Cooperation 

  • East Asia, The Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy 

  • Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism 

  • Africa and Global Health Policy 

  • State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development 


The Purpose of Senate Foreign Relations Committee 

This Committee oversees the legislation of the national security on foreign policy and the impact it has on international relations including wars, treaties, executive agreements, military deployments, international economic policy, and others. The following are specific purposes of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

Establishes the Boundary Lines Between the United States and Foreign Nations

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has authority and jurisdiction over border disputes between the United States and neighboring countries. 

Relations with the United States and Foreign Nations  

The United States has relations with foreign nations about policies including war, commerce, and general powers.  

Intervention Abroad and Declaration of War 

Wars-related costs and questions about neutrality issues are within the Committee. 

Foreign Loans 

The committee has the power to directly affect U.S. foreign and defense policies, as well as jurisdiction over legislation authorizing foreign aid programs, this leads to policy guidelines and spending limits for foreign aid programs providing countries with economic and military assistance. In addition, the Committee can cut off or place restrictions on aid to specific countries. 

International Agreement 

Includes problems such as subsidies, economic sanctions, and commodity transfers. 


There are multiple factors and institutions that helped shape the United States' foreign policy throughout history, and as it continues, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is impacting the U.S. by interacting with foreign nations and making a significant difference.