This morning, Demand Progress hosted a panel on reforming emergency powers. As you may be aware, Presidents have access to sweeping emergency powers that have been the source of controversy for generations. With Americans becoming increasingly skeptical of unchecked presidential power, a bipartisan group of Representatives and Senators have introduced broad reforms that would rein in the executive branch and help reclaim Congress’s constitutional authority.
During the panel, participants discussed those reforms, why we need them, and what’s next in this ongoing debate. Key quotes from the panel are below. A full recording of the event is here. If you are interested in connecting with any of the participants, please let us know.
Luis Cardona, U.S. Army veteran and federal affairs liaison at Concerned Veterans for America:
“We have seen administration after administration abuse emergency powers under the National Emergencies Act.
“We’ve got a strong opportunity in the 117th Congress to pass the National Security Powers Act.”
Soren Dayton, policy advocate at Protect Democracy:
“[These bills] really change the nature of politics and accountability on these issues.
“This is stuff Joe Biden has been thinking about, as the longest serving Senator to be President.”
Liza Goitein, director of the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice:
“Emergency powers … could be used to undermine our democracy. By any measure, the National Emergencies Act has been a failure … Emergencies today routinely last for 10 years or longer. Right now, absent a super majority vote by Congress, an emergency declaration will stay in place indefinitely.
“This is a key opportunity to prevent something that I think we’ll be very sorry if we don’t. Try to think of any emergency that could be made better by testing chemical weapons on people.”
Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, government affairs manager at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO):
“Once something has been happening for five years or more, that’s not really an emergency anymore.
“We have significant effort and momentum in terms of passing these bills out of committee.”
Kate Oh, senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
“The reality is litigation and appeals take a long time, whereas emergency declarations can be issued unilaterally and they can inflict all sorts of effects and enormous damage.
“The bottom line message that I hope everyone takes from these legal challenges is that relying on the courts is not enough, and is far from enough.
“In the 117th Congress, supporters on the Hill have a variety of legislative paths forward … lawmakers could strategize around the National Defense Authorization Act to pass NEA reform.”
This was the second of three panels in our series discussing the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act (H.R.5410) and National Security Powers Act (S.2391). The first panel, focused on the War Powers elements of that legislation, is available here.