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President Trump’s Declaration of a State of Emergency

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President Trump’s Declaration of a State of Emergency

Jacob Kaplan, Editor-in-chief

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On Friday, February 15th, President Trump issued a declaration of a state of emergency in order to allocate military funds towards building a wall at the southernmost border of the United States. This declaration was hinted at many weeks before the president decided to actually take action and although many people know about the National Emergencies Act of 1976, not many people know what it actually does and the precedents that have been set by it. The National Emergencies Act or NEA was signed into law by President Ford in 1976 in order to formalize the emergency powers given to the president during a time of crisis. Many presidents before and after Ford would declare a national emergency, but the REA and the Supreme Court would make guidelines and put limits on the president’s power, only giving the president specifically 136 emergency powers listed in the legislation. The Act bestows special powers to the president during a national emergency, but Congress can undo an emergency declaration through a joint resolution and the president’s signature, a veto-proof, or 2/3rds supermajority vote.

This means that President Trump has the ability to call for a national emergency to allocate the funds for the wall, regardless of whether or not it is wrong to do so, and the Supreme Court has the same right to strike it down. Because of how broad the actual definition of a “national emergency” is in the REA, presidents in the past, Obama in 2009 declared a national emergency for the Swine Flu epidemic and took action without really any controversy on whether or not what the Swine Flu qualified as a national emergency. For many reasons, this scenario is different. For one, each side of the political aisle disagrees on whether or not the southern border of the U.S. is worthy of a national emergency. Congresspeople in general, out of fear for the precedent that may be set by Trump’s actions, are skeptical of using the REA to use funds from the military to build a southern border wall. Furthermore, as a political move, it is strategic for the Democrats in the House to attempt to block Trump’s legislation because not only does it block one of Trump’s campaign promises to his political base, but also shows how devoted they are to their own base. Regardless of politics, the actual declaration itself is being challenged in the Supreme Court, where many states, most of them Democrat-led, are suing the White House on the constitutionality of the declaration.

To add to the Supreme Court case, the declaration is being challenged by Congress. Just this past Tuesday, February 26th, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution of disapproval of the president’s declaration and passed it 245 to 182, with 13 Republicans joining Democrats to block his efforts. Now, the resolution of disapproval will go to the Senate, where four Republican Senators have already declared that they will stand with the President’s declaration. Many Republicans, although they support the building of the wall, are not willing to compromise Congressional power. This is not only for the fear of future presidents and states of emergencies but also because they believe it is not the responsibility of Congress to pass what the president wants at any cost. Ultimately, both the vote in the Senate and the verdict in the Supreme Court will shape how much power the presidency has for the future, for better or for worse.

Sources:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/8/18172749/trump-national-emergency-government-shutdown-wall

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/house-votes-to-reject-trump-emergency-declaration-setting-up-potential-veto-showdown

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/26/us/politics/national-emergency-vote.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/15/us/politics/national-emergency-trump.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/us/politics/trump-congress-national-emergency.html?module=inline

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Emergencies_Act

 

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President Trump’s Declaration of a State of Emergency