Treaties (

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms


Benjamin Franklin and Richard Oswald discussing the Treaty of Peace Paris, by Howard Pyle in Scribner Magazine, 1898. Library of Congress
Benjamin Franklin and Richard Oswald discussing the Treaty of Peace Paris, by Howard Pyle in Scribner Magazine, 1898. Library of Congress

Resolution of Ratification: Senate vehicle for consideration of a treaty.

Executive proposals – in the form of resolutions of ratification – that must be submitted to the Senate for approval by two-thirds of the senators present. Treaties today are normally sent to the Foreign Relations Committee for scrutiny before the Senate takes action. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has jurisdiction over all treaties, regardless of the subject matter. Treaties are read three times and debated on the floor in much the same manner as legislative proposals. After approval by the Senate, the president formally ratifies treaties. Treaties not approved by the Senate at the end of a congressional session do not die. Instead, they can be considered by a future Congress unless withdrawn by the president.

A treaty is an executive document sent by the president to the Senate for its consideration and approval.

Reservations are formal declarations that modify the effect of one or more of the provisions of the treaty. The Senate sometimes also includes other additions to the resolution of ratification called “understandings,” “interpretations,” or “declarations” that do not modify the force of the treaty but are intended to further clarify its meaning. Each of these matters requires only a simple majority for adoption.

Reservations are “specific qualifications or stipulations which change U.S. obligations without necessarily changing treaty language.”
Understandings are “interpretive statements that clarify or elaborate the provisions of the treaty but do not alter its language.”
Declarations are “statements of the Senate’s position, opinion or intentions on
matters relating to issues raised by the treaty, but not to its specific provisions.”

“Treaties and Other International Agreements: The Role of the United States Senate,” S. Prt. 106-71 (January 2001).

Chapter 8.D. Treaties in Congressional Procedure.


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