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S. 764: Assuring that Robust, Thorough, and Informed Congressional Leadership is Exercised Over National Emergencies Act

Should national emergencies, like the one President Trump just declared at the Mexican border, only be in effect for one month unless approved by Congress?


One of the biggest news stories of 2019 has been Trump’s February declaration of a national emergency at the Mexican border. Lesser known is that there are 31 national emergencies currently in effect.

Many or even most of these are arguably no longer applicable, with the earliest instituted in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. Rather, most were simply declared by a president — and then for whatever reason, either never formally repealed, or extended with barely a thought or debate.

Most members of Congress disagreed with Trump’s national emergency declaration, including many members of his own party. Both the House and Senate voted to overturn Trump’s decision, prompting the first veto of his presidency.

But while more than half of both chambers voted to overturn, they’re not able to muster the ⅔ necessary to override Trump’s veto. So, unless declared unconstitutional by the courts, Trump’s national emergency will proceed.

What the bill does

The ARTICLE ONE Act would limit any national emergency declared by a president to only 30 days, unless subsequently approved or extended by Congress.

The full name is the Assuring that Robust, Thorough, and Informed Congressional Leadership is Exercised Over National Emergencies Act.

Article One is the Constitution’s section detailing the powers of Congress, since the body was intended by the Founders to be more powerful than the presidency, which in recent decades has in many policy areas ceased to remain true.

It was introduced on March 12 as bill number S. 764 by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

What supporters say

Supporters argue that the legislative branch has weakened itself when it comes to declaring national emergencies, caving to presidential power, and that an imperial presidency has resulted unless Congress reverts back.

“If Congress is troubled by recent emergency declarations made pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, they only have themselves to blame,” Sen. Lee said in a press release. “Congress gave these legislative powers away in 1976 and it is far past time that we as an institution took them back.”

“If we don’t want our president acting like a king, we need to start taking back the legislative powers that allow him to do so,” Sen. Lee continued. “The ARTICLE ONE Act will go a long way to restoring the balance of powers in our republic.”

What opponents say

President Trump argues that he has not only the right but the responsibility as president to declare national emergencies as he sees fit — and this one specifically.

“Since 1976, Presidents have declared 59 national emergencies. They often involved protecting foreign citizens in far-off lands, yet Congress has not terminated any of them. Every single one of them is still in existence,” Trump said in remarks from the Oval Office.

“And yet, we don’t worry about our land; we worry about other people’s lands. That’s why I say ‘America first.’ If that’s okay: ‘America first,’” Trump continued.

“The only emergency Congress voted to revoke was the one to protect our own country. So, think of that: with all of the national emergencies, this was the one they don’t want to do. And this is the one, perhaps, they should most do.”

Odds of passage

The bill has so far attracted 17 Senate cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a possible vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Last updated Mar 19, 2019. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Nov 18, 2019.

Assuring that Robust, Thorough, and Informed Congressional Leadership is Exercised Over National Emergencies Act or the ARTICLE ONE Act

This bill sets forth procedures for a presidential declaration of a national emergency.

The President is authorized to declare a national emergency by proclamation. Such proclamation must be immediately transmitted to Congress and published in the Federal Register. The President must specify the emergency provisions of law being invoked.

If Congress does not approve the emergency declaration, the President may not declare an emergency with respect to the same circumstances for the remainder of the term of office.

A declaration of emergency shall remain in effect for 30 days from the issuance of the proclamation and shall terminate thereafter unless Congress enacts a joint resolution of approval. If Congress is unable to convene during the 30-day period, such period does not begin until the first day Congress convenes.

Unless otherwise terminated by the President or Congress, a declaration of national emergency shall terminate after one year unless it is renewed by the President and approved by a joint resolution of Congress.

The bill sets forth procedures for congressional review of declarations of national emergencies and excludes from such procedures certain national emergencies invoking the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

The President shall (1) transmit specified information to Congress with any proclamation declaring or renewing a national emergency, including a description of the circumstances necessitating the declaration or renewal of a national emergency declaration and its estimated duration; and (2) report periodically on the status of the emergency.

The bill amends the IEEPA to prohibit the President from using any authorities of such Act to impose duties or tariff-rate quotas.