The president is saying he might use the emergency powers he has been granted as president. It doesn’t matter if he uses it or not, the fact is that there are emergency powers granted to any president.
The history of the law: President Gerald Ford signed the legislation into law in 1976. It was called the National Emergencies act of 1976. In 1977 there was also a law titled the International Emergency Economic Powers act which allows the president to regulate commerce during a declared emergency. It was also signed by President Jimmy Carter.
The Congressional Research Service developed a report on this law, and their report states: “Under the powers delegated by such statutes, the president may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens.”
There are several national emergencies declared by various presidents that are still ongoing. They include a November 1979 National Emergency by President Carter that froze Iranian assets (we’re not sure what has happened, since they did get some of their assets returned in exchange for not developing nuclear weapons). There was a national emergency declared after 9/11 that has not been rescinded, and a national emergency declared by President Obama after the swine flu breakout, which allowed medical facilities to provide for people who had symptoms of the flu.
According to the PRI radio program “The World,” there are 31 national emergencies still active (the program’s web site says President Trump could declare a national emergency and control even the internet, because the law allows the president to declare communications systems part of the National Emergency).
I am not Trumper, but even as a liberal Democrat, I do not think the president would ever do that. The president must, however, state what powers granted by statue he/she wants to use.
Congress does have influence here, and can end any national emergency. Given how divided our county is right now, even if President Trump were to declare a national emergency, it is doubtful Congress could get its act together to end it. Right now, Congress is way too divided to accomplish that.
It is interesting that under President Obama, there were emergencies that were issued dealing with foreign entities that are still in place. One of them is to block properties from people in Burundi who contributed to the terrible situation there. Another blocks people who are engaged in cyber-activity (hmmm, Russia?), and another blocking people engaged in bad things from Venezuela. There were also emergencies lasting even longer and blocking people engaged in bad things in countries such as South Sudan (where there has been a ton of corruption and wealth accumulated by people no longer residing in South Sudan), Ukraine and Central African Republic. All of those countries have engaged in questionable practices against their own citizens. There is an even longer national emergency declared for Yemen. There is even longer – years – for participants in organized crime from Japan and Italy.
The reason this has not been noticed by the press or the people who consume news is because it’s usually about countries that we don’t know about, or that we think are already controlled by crime syndicates (Italy). We tend not to care what the president does about those countries. However, when the president thinks about involving something that directly affects people in the United States, then we begin to care and pay attention.
This is what is happening with the emergency that the president has – as of this writing – yet to declare. It is often said he wants to control illegal drugs (so do most Americans). If that is the case, let’s start with China and its use of our postal service to make Fentynal available in the U.S. That may well be a national emergency, being that more people have died of drug overdoses than died in the Vietnam War (we do have a wall that memorializes those deaths).
I don’t know if President Trump is going to declare a National Emergency; however there are many problems that deserve that designation before our current border crises. Let’s save our national emergency declarations for those problems.