In February 2019, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to secure funding that Congress had expressly denied for the construction of a wall along the southern border. Before that declaration, most Americans were unaware that a vast set of laws gives the president greatly enhanced powers during emergencies. The Brennan Center, building on previous research, has identified 135 statutory powers that may become available to the president when he declares a national emergency, including the power President Trump invoked to help build the wall (10 U.S.C. 2808 (a)). An additional 13 statutory powers become available when a national emergency is declared by Congress.
The Brennan Center’s research is presented in the two tables below. The first lists several important laws that establish general frameworks for different kinds of emergencies (including national emergencies, major disasters, public health emergencies, etc.). The second sets forth the 148 statutory provisions available during national emergencies; it displays these powers by subject matter, specifies the conditions triggering their use, and lists the occasions on which they have been invoked. This table is sortable/searchable by level of restriction on the president’s powers, U.S. code title, and keyword. Our top-line observations from this research may be found here, while our methodology for compiling the database is available here. Separately, we have developed a running list of national emergencies declared since the National Emergencies Act went into effect. And we did a deeper dive into some of these powers in the January/February 2019 issue of The Atlantic.