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Coalition Letter Presses Senators to Support National Emergencies Act Reform in Upcoming Defense Legislation

On June 15, 2022, the Brennan Center joined forty cross-ideological organizations in urging senators to include National Emergencies Act reform in the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

Published: June 15, 2022

Recent revel­a­tions make clear that advisors to former Pres­id­ent Trump fixated on emer­gency powers in their quest to over­turn the results of the 2020 elec­tion. As specious as many of those argu­ments were, they high­light the danger­ous over­breadth of the laws in the United States govern­ing national emer­gen­cies. Under the post-Water­gate National Emer­gen­cies Act, a pres­id­ent has unfettered discre­tion to declare a national emer­gency, which then unlocks more than 120 stat­utory powers dispersed through­out the federal code. Some of these author­it­ies seem innoc­u­ous, but others, like the author­ity to seize commu­nic­a­tions networks, are ripe for abuse. While Congress origin­ally designed the system to enable over­sight — and, if neces­sary, nulli­fic­a­tion — of these emer­gency proclam­a­tions, the Supreme Court has knee­capped its abil­ity to rein in a wayward exec­ut­ive. Now, states of emer­gency are the norm, not the excep­tion. 

A bipar­tisan consensus has emerged to reform the National Emer­gen­cies Act, and a forth­com­ing amend­ment to the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Author­iz­a­tion Act (NDAA) reflects that consensus. The amend­ment would retain pres­id­en­tial flex­ib­il­ity in the imme­di­ate after­math of an emer­gency, but it would require congres­sional approval to continue after 30 days, subject to exped­ited proced­ures. The amend­ment contains exemp­tions for emer­gen­cies that exist solely under the Inter­na­tional Emer­gency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), includ­ing the current state of emer­gency that enables sanc­tions against Russia. In this year’s NDAA, the Senate has the oppor­tun­ity to reclaim powers lost to the exec­ut­ive over the course of decades — and to do so in a bipar­tisan manner. The Bren­nan Center urges senat­ors to vote in favor of this amend­ment.

Coali­tion Letter Presses Senat­ors to Support National Emer­gen­cies Act Reform in Upcom­ing Defense Legis­la­tio… by The Bren­nan Center for Justice on Scribd