It’s scary to think about, but U.S. President Donald Trump has far-flung powers to declare a national emergency for almost anything he wants. (The Atlantic has some chilling examples if you feel like losing sleep.) That’s thanks, in part, to the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which gives the U.S. president the ability to bypass Congress in a broad array of emergency situations as long as he lays out his reasons for doing so.
Now that it’s looking likely that Trump will exercise that power to build his dream wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, you may be wondering what, if anything, Congress can do to stop him. Yeah, us too.
Fortunately, there is a legal mechanism in place, although technically it’s never been implemented before. As NPR reported recently, the National Emergencies Act also gives Congress the power to nullify presidential emergency declarations. The closest Congress came to actually doing that was in 2005, when President George W. Bush tried to justify a lower pay rate for government contract workers under the pretense that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina necessitated it. Congress disagreed, and so it introduced a resolution to terminate Bush’s proclamation. Rather than suffer defeat, Bush withdrew it one day before the vote, NPR reports.
Of course, Trump would very likely not withdraw any proclamation he makes on the wall, lest he incur the wrath of Fox News pundits and/or Ann Coulter, but with Congress under the Democrats’ control, and even some Republican senators voicing opposition to a national emergency, a resolution to terminate could conceivably pass.
Speaker Pelosi says Democrats “will review our options” if President Trump declares a national emergency. pic.twitter.com/NuyclTktHm
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) February 14, 2019