Brennan Center for Social Justice (2019). Brennan Center Calls for Fundamental Reform of the National Emergencies Act of 1976 (2019)
As a bipartisan group of organizations, all of which work to safeguard and strengthen our democratic institutions, we write to urge you to enact fundamental reform of the National Emergencies Act of 1976 (NEA). Such reform is critical to preventing future abuses of emergency powers that could be disastrous for our democracy, irrespective of who occupies the White House.
For the past 100 years, U.S. presidents have been able to access extraordinary powers by virtue of declaring a national emergency—including powers to shut down communications facilities, seize property, organize and control the means of production, assign military forces abroad, and restrict travel. Until the 1970s, presidents were able to invoke such emergency powers with essentially no congressional oversight and no limit on how long a state of emergency could last.
Realizing the danger in this situation, Congress enacted the NEA to bolster its own role and to create protections against the abuse of emergency powers. The law contained three primary safeguards: (1) states of emergency would expire after a year unless presidents renewed them; (2) Congress could terminate states of emergency at any time using a “legislative
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