US constitutional crisis beckons
Sir, – The impasse over the partisan-political issue of a border structure on the US-Mexico border requires rational adult consultations between the involved officials to achieve a thoughtful consensus. Donald Trump, through repeated public displays of petulant arrogance, makes such a preferred outcome essentially impossible.
American presidents have in the past declared a national emergency for various serious issues concerning the economy or in time of war. The legal basis for being able to initiate such action is embedded in provisions of statutory law; the activation of these provisions are contingent on a declaration of national emergency.
But the overall scope of a president’s authority to make such a declaration was long considered too vague and unlimited. In response the National Emergencies Act was enacted on September 14th, 1976, by Congress. It is a federal law passed to stop open-ended states of national emergency and formalise the power of Congress to provide certain checks and balances on the emergency powers of the president. The Act of Congress imposes certain procedural formalities on the president when invoking such powers. The perceived need for the law arose from the scope and number of laws granting special powers to the executive in times of national emergency.
Donald Trump may in a Twitter burst suddenly declare a national emergency; however, it does not guarantee he can appropriate funding legally set aside by Congress for other specific purposes. The scope of the effectiveness of a declaration will become a matter for the federal courts to decide. Mr Trump’s action may become nothing more than a sop of pretend action to satisfy his “advisers” on Fox and the right-wing noise-makers. – Yours, etc,