“I Didn’t Need to Do This”

Five Things You Need to Read Today

1. The National Emergency Emergency

I declare a national emergency of presidents declaring national emergencies.

Before President Trump declared ordinary conditions on the border to be a “national emergency,” there were already 28 active “national emergencies” giving the president special powers, and most have been in effect for years. Ironically, most of them have been imposed under the framework of the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which was supposedly intended to rein in presidential emergency powers. It didn’t work, in part because of the vagueness of the statute and in part because Congress promptly abandoned the mechanisms it provided. “[T]he act requires that each house of Congress meet every six months to consider a vote to end the state of emergency. Not once has Congress met to consider such a vote.”

The framers of the Constitution designed our system based on the best knowledge about the workings of government available to them. Men like James Madison assumed that the different branches of government could be expected to jealously guard their powers against encroachment by the other branches. What they didn’t anticipate was the way in which Congress would be tempted to give away its powers wholesale to the executive.

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