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Seminar paper from the year 2003 in the subject Politics - International Politics - Region: USA, grade: 1,0, University of Potsdam, course: Public policy and institutions, 13 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: The dominant player in international politics is unmistakably the United States of America. U.S. economic, military and cultural superiority is shaping world politics and setting the stage for the next generation. U.S. foreign policy features the image of the United States President and to a lesser extent that of the Secretary of State and Defense. They are the predominant figures that drive U.S. foreign policy on the international stage. The system of checks and balances neatly involves two branches of government - executive and legislative - in a construct of interdependence. Congress is the government branch of 'the people'. The two-year term cycles for House Representatives and the large number of districts make Congress the most 'representative' institution in the U.S. government. In contemporary political science the state of being represented is described by 'Principle-Agent-Relationship', in which the representative - the agent - closely represents his constituency - the principle. 'It doesn't pay off for my constituency' said Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) when asked, why she wanted to get off of the House International Relations Committee (HIRC). This incident was my first impression of foreign policy in the U.S. Congress. Having heard that, I went to a HIRC oversight hearing to see how they conduct their business. What struck me most was the fact that the members devoted approx. half of their speaking time of total five minutes to the actual issue at stake and the other half to an issue that was absolutely irrelevant to the pending business. As I found out later, the irrelevant issues were important for the individual member to have been mentioned to the panel and C-SPAN. The subsequent past months I spent on 'the Hill', observing congressional (foreign) policy- and decision-making, with three leading questions bearing in mind: 1. Is the U.S. Congress important for U.S. foreign policy? 2. What factors influence decision making in foreign policy? 3. Does constituency play a role in the making and shaping of foreign policy?