Reed hopes to rein in executive emergency declaration powers
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The president’s power to declare a national emergency could end up in the hands of Congress. That is, if a proposal from New York Rep. Tom Reed gains traction.
Despite supporting President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border, Reed has introduced a bill that would give more authority over emergency declarations to the legislative branch and away from the executive branch. The proposal comes just days before the Senate is expected follow the House by voting to formally disapprove of President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration.
The bill follows a highly intense and partisan battle over border wall funding that led to a 35-day partial government shutdown. Soon thereafter, Trump issued a controversial emergency declaration in order to shift more than $8 billion in previously allocated federal money toward the construction of the wall and other similar projects.
Reed’s proposal would require Congress to vote for or against an emergency declaration by the president. Lawmakers would have 60 days to cast that vote once a president declares a national emergency. If no action is taken, the emergency essentially no longer exists.
The bill would reform the National Emergencies Act, Reed’s attempt to rein in what he calls an “executive overreach” of authority, and give legislators more power over emergency declarations.
“This is an institutional threat to the Congress and to the Executive Branch, and to the whole functioning of government under the constitution,” said Reed, whose 23rd Congressional District covers Chautauqua County. “So, let’s fix that root cause of the problem. That’s what this is all about.”
Currently, the process forces Congress to work the other around, to disapprove of an emergency declaration rather than approving it in the first place.
But the timing and language of this legislation has critics up in arms. Reed voted to uphold Trump’s emergency declaration during a formal, Democratic-led disapproval vote in the House last week. The Corning, N.Y. Republican still supports his vote. But he disagrees with the president’s office having that much power to begin with.
“I recognize the President has the authority to do it, I recognize there is a crisis at the border,” Reed noted. “His action to me was appropriate... But I want to change the rules. I disagree with him using the power.”
Reed’s plan has bipartisan support, including several members coming from the group he co-chairs, the Problem Solvers Caucus. But it’s gaining traction among some notable Republicans outside of the approximately 48-member caucus, including Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the former chair of the House Republican Caucus.
“For too long, Congress has ceded its Constitutional duties to the executive branch,” said McMorris-Rodgers said in a statement. “In order for us to protect the voice of ‘We, the People,’ we must restore that authority to the branch that is closest and most accountable to the people — the legislative branch.”