• On February 15, 2019, President of the United States Donald Trump declared a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States.
• President Donald Trump, citing an “invasion” of drugs and criminals, declared a national emergency to fund construction of a border wall along US-Mexico Border.
• US President can now bypass the opposition in Congress (Parliament in the United States) and can redirect billions of dollars in federal funds to build the wall.
Emergency Powers in the United States
• Neither the term “emergency” nor any comparable term appears in the text of the United States Constitution.
• The President in the United States has Emergency Powers derived from the National Emergencies Act, 1976.
National Emergencies Act, 1976
• Under the National Emergencies Act, the president can declare a national emergency, providing a specific reason for it.
• A national emergency is declared in a national crisis or a situation where circumstances threaten the country and call for an immediate response.
• The act offers no specific definition of “emergency” and allows a president to declare one entirely at his or her discretion.
• The acts require a president to notify Congress publicly of the national emergency and to report every six months.
• The law also says the president must renew the emergency every year, simply by notifying Congress.
• The Congress can revoke a declaration by majority vote, though it would take a two-thirds vote by each house to override an expected presidential veto.
Previous Stances of Emergency Declaration
• As of February 2019, 59 national emergencies have been declared, since the National Emergency Act of 1976 was enacted and the United States is under 31 continuing declared states of national emergency.
• Many US presidents have declared national emergencies during their time in office. President Barack Obama declared a national emergency in 2009 during the swine flu outbreak to allow hospitals and local governments to establish sites to deal with the virus.
• In 2001, President George W. Bush declared a national emergency days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that suspend certain aspects of the law, including provisions that limit the size of the military.
Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: National Emergency in US
Mains level: Constitution comparison