Today Representatives Chip Roy (R-TX) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced legislation to reform presidential emergency powers. The ARTICLE ONE Act would require presidential declarations of emergency to expire after 30 days unless Congress agrees to an extension. Approved declarations could stay in place for one year, with any renewals requiring congressional approval. The legislation would also improve transparency in the use of emergency powers. Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a companion bill last night.
Elizabeth Goitein, senior director in the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the following comment:
“Under current law, Congress can do little to prevent a president from exploiting the authorities that come with declaring a national emergency for personal or partisan ends. When a president declares an emergency, it unlocks powers in 135 provisions of law, including the ability to shut down or take over communications facilities, freeze Americans’ assets, and control domestic transportation. Powers like these could be abused to consolidate power or otherwise subvert democracy and individual liberties. Moreover, emergency declarations can remain in place indefinitely – Congress can end them only with the president’s cooperation or with a veto-proof supermajority, a virtual impossibility in today’s political climate.
“The ARTICLE ONE Act would solve this problem by imposing a 30-day limit on national emergency declarations unless Congress agreed to extend them. This commonsense measure would strengthen Congress’s role as a check against presidential overreach. Presidents would still have flexibility in the immediate aftermath of a crisis, when it’s most needed – but Congress would be able to step in to prevent abuse. Both houses should move quickly to advance this vital bill.”
For background, see “A Guide to Emergency Powers and Their Use.”