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Many or even most of these are arguably no longer applicable, with the earliest instituted in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. Rather, most were simply declared by a president — and then for whatever reason, either never formally repealed, or extended with barely a thought or debate.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