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Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich)

December 21, 2020

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 21, 2020

CONTACT

mi03.media@mail.house.gov

Amash introduces bill to limit presidential emergency powers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.) today introduced the National Emergencies Reform Act to limit the president’s statutory authority to invoke emergency powers.

Under the National Emergencies Act (NEA), the president can declare emergencies and invoke powers that otherwise require congressional action. These declarations last until the president withdraws them or a joint congressional termination resolution is passed into law. Because a president who has not voluntarily withdrawn an emergency declaration is unlikely to sign a bill to end it, Congress must obtain a supermajority to end an emergency declaration without the president’s cooperation.

This arrangement allows presidents to abuse the NEA to usurp Congress’s legislative authority, and it allows an “emergency” to persist indefinitely: Of the 69 national emergencies declared since the NEA was enacted in 1976, 35 are still in effect. This violates the structure of the Constitution, which vests legislative power exclusively in Congress, and it deprives the people of their right to be heard in the policymaking process through their congressional representatives.

The National Emergencies Reform Act cures this problem by providing that national emergencies declared by the president will sunset automatically unless Congress is unable to meet or Congress votes to sustain the designation within 48 hours of reconvening. All existing national emergencies will become void 60 days after passage unless Congress votes to continue them.

“Going back to the Framers of the Constitution, Americans have recognized the president’s inherent power as chief executive to act swiftly and unilaterally in an emergency. But such power exists only so long as Congress has no opportunity to act,” said Amash. “Laws like the National Emergencies Act are not—and, under our Constitution, cannot be—grants of legislative powers to the president. Too often, emergencies are being invoked without appropriate justification, and the transition of power back to Congress isn’t happening. My bill will restore constitutional balance to these situations by limiting the duration of presidential emergency declarations without restricting the president’s ability to act in true emergencies.”

Bill text is attached.

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