Two senators, one from each party, have teamed up on a bill that would significantly curtail President Trump’s emergency powers.
Sens. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, and Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, introduced the Republic Act on Wednesday that would give Congress a much greater say in declaring national emergencies, including automatic sunset provisions.
“Congress fails its responsibilities to the American people and the constitution when it leaves the executive virtually unchecked to unlock and exercise emergency powers in perpetuity,” Mr. Paul said in a statement.
Currently, according to a report in Reason magazine, the U.S. is under 32 “national emergency” declarations, including one dating back to 1979 when Iran invaded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and seized the Americans there as hostages. The last hostage was released in 1981, but the emergency is still technically in effect.
Calling the National Emergency Act of 1976 “a convenient tool for ticked off executives,” Reason said its primary value now is to expand presidential power to do end-runs around Congress.
For example, Mr. Trump recently declared a border-security emergency and is using the powers it grants him to shift around money to build a border wall that Congress refused to fund.
Under Mr. Paul and Mr. Wyden’s bill, that couldn’t happen.
The Reforming Emergency Powers to Uphold the Balances and Limitations Inherit in the Constitution (REPUBLIC) Act would automatically end all presidential emergency declarations within 72 hours unless Congress agrees to extend it. It also would end all emergencies, even congressionally approved ones, within 90 days unless Congress reaffirmed it.
Currently, a president can declare an emergency, and it sticks until Congress repudiates it, which a president can make very difficult by vetoing the resolution and requiring a two-thirds supermajority in both houses to override.
“Presidents have run roughshod over the constitution for far too long because Congress keeps shirking its obligations,” Mr. Wyden said. “Checks and balances are more than pretty words on a page; they’re a bedrock principle of our democracy.”
The bill also exempts emergency-power sanctions against foreign governments and actors, takes away a president’s power to control communications under some emergency declarations, and ends all current national emergencies unrelated to the foreign-sanctions law.
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