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Time to reform Presidential Emergency Powers


Recently I posted The Atlantic: Trump’s Emergency Powers are ripe for abuse; plus earlier this year I drew attention to this article  at The Atlantic by Elizabeth Goitein

As I noted then

The article is well worth reading, read the article and ponder the conclusion – it needs action:

 the dangers posed by emergency powers that are written into statute can be mitigated through the simple expedient of changing the law. Committees in the House could begin this process now by undertaking a thorough review of existing emergency powers and declarations. Based on that review, Congress could repeal the laws that are obsolete or unnecessary. It could revise others to include stronger protections against abuse. It could issue new criteria for emergency declarations, require a connection between the nature of the emergency and the powers invoked, and prohibit indefinite emergencies. It could limit the powers set forth in peads.

Congress, of course, will undertake none of these reforms without extraordinary public pressure—and until now, the public has paid little heed to emergency powers. But we are in uncharted political territory. At a time when other democracies around the world are slipping toward authoritarianism—and when the president seems eager for the United States to follow their example—we would be wise to shore up the guardrails of liberal democracy. Fixing the current system of emergency powers would be a good place to start. MORE AT LINK

To this I would now add the IEEPA or International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which Trump cites as his authority for “ordering” that American companies “immediately start looking for an alternative to China.”


Based on what I have read, I suspect that Trump, or his enablers such as Navarro and Barr, is correct. However, I am equally of the belief that this sort of capricious, economically illiterate behaviour is not what Congress ever conetemplated when the Act was passed.

Indeed, Ms Goitein referenced the IEEPA in her Atlantic article.

This article at Lawfare by Peter Harrell draws attention to how Trump is just the latest President to find ways to use the IEEPA in ways not clearly foreseen

IEEPA, which serves as the legal basis for many of America’s economic sanctions programs, almost certainly gives Trump the legal power he claims. But Trump’s threat to use the statute to unilaterally remake America’s economic relationship with the world’s second-biggest economy is just the latest twist in a steady, bipartisan presidential expansion of IEEPA that makes the statute overdue for reform.

Economic sanctions have exploded in popularity in recent decades as presidents of both parties have turned to the tool to address an ever-broader set of national security threats, and President Trump is correct to point out that IEEPA gives him the authority to end most U.S. business in China, just as past presidents used IEEPA to end business in Iran, Libya, Sudan and Syria, among others over the years. But this ever-expanding use calls for a package of reforms that would strengthen accountability and maintain our long-standing system of checks and balances.

I go back to a point I have made several times, America and indeed the rest of the world is suffering because Congress (the Senate and the House) have ceded far too much power to the Executive. Now you, the USA have through that abrogation of responsibility found that an economically illiterate President with no moral compass that is discernible is using these powers capriciously and alienating allies and causing global political and economic havoc. In  so doing he has forever tainted the image of America.

It is time that the Congress acted and restored the system of checks and balances envisioned by the Framers.

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