By Jon Dougherty
Few Democrats and Republicans had any issues with the National Emergencies Act, passed in 1976 to give presidents the authority to declare emergencies in times of crisis.
But since the president is now Donald Trump and the crisis is unchecked illegal immigration, suddenly members of his own party, as well as a growing number of Democrats, have lots of problems with the law — and they want to change it.
Seems like the Koch Brothers still wield much power.
The Hill reports that Republican leaders are currently crafting legislation that would curb the president’s powers during future national emergency declarations.
The effort comes as congressional leaders in both parties and in both chambers realize they don’t have enough votes to override POTUS Trump’s Friday veto of their bill seeking to block his declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The president’s ability to access funding not approved by Congress specifically for the purpose of building new walls — a key campaign promise of Trump’s — appears to be what is motivating lawmakers in both parties, but primarily the GOP, to revise the current National Emergencies Act.
“It’s an institutional issue, it’s a congressional authorities issue. We have the power of the purse,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “Under the National Emergencies Act, there was too much latitude that was given away … and we need to pull that back some and let it be used for legitimate national security purposes.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) added that there is “unanimity” among Republicans about changing the law in the wake of the fight over the president’s emergency declaration to construct the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
The Hill noted:
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has tapped Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to craft legislation in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that could win the 60 votes needed for a bill to defeat a filibuster and ultimately pass the Senate.
Under the National Emergencies Act, Congress can force a vote on a resolution of disapproval if they want to try to block an emergency declaration. But a president can veto the resolution, setting up a difficult hurdle for Congress to overcome since a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber is needed to override a veto.
Even GOP senators who sided with Trump are interested in the broader issue.
“I would like to revisit the emergency powers that Congress has provided to the executive branch,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who sided with the president. “I do think it’s going to be a healthy debate to have.”
Senate leader McConnell is on board as well.
“If Congress has grown uneasy with this law, as many have, then we should amend it. If the 116th Congress regrets the degree of flexibility that the 94th Congress gave the executive, the 116th Congress can do something about it,” McConnell added separately during a floor speech.
Already, about one-third of the GOP caucus is on board with making changes to the National Emergencies Act in a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would require Congress to approve each new one within 30 days or the declaration would be terminated.
“I don’t know of any president that likes to give up power, but clearly Congress has been asleep at the switch,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who supported the president with his vote but is now supporting Lee’s legislation.
Democrats are also warming up to making changes:
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, predicted that Democrats would be “open” to changing the underlying law as long as it was separated from the fight over whether or not Republicans would back the resolution of disapproval.
“It doesn’t solve our current problem,” he added, “but it addresses the dilemma we face.”
If you ever wondered how much power the cheap immigrant labor corporate lobby holds in Washington, D.C., here’s your evidence.
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