Not Everything Is a National Emergency
“Action on climate change and clean energy remains more urgent than ever,” President Joe Biden said Friday after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) rejected his own party’s climate legislation. “So let me be clear: if the Senate will not move to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen our domestic clean energy industry, I will take strong executive action to meet this moment.”
Monday night, citing three unnamed sources, The Washington Post broke the story of what that action may be: “Biden is considering declaring a national climate emergency,” the paper reported, and it could happen “as soon as this week.” Activists believe a national emergency would let Biden “halt crude oil exports, limit oil and gas drilling in federal waters, and direct agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency to boost renewable-energy sources,” the Post notes. Though political realities—especially high gas prices and inflation—and the inevitable Republican-led lawsuits may serve as some restraint on Biden, the activists are correct that emergency declarations are a potent boost to presidential power.
And that’s exactly the problem. Emergency declarations have become a lazy political workaround, a way for presidents to bypass Congress after it fails to do its job—or, in some cases, outright rejects what the president wants. National emergencies have become a loophole to administrative lawlessness, and they are in dire need of reform.
In their present form, emergencies are governed by the National Emergencies Act of 1976. Presidents from Jimmy Carter onward have declared 75 emergencies citing the authority of that law, and about half of those declarations, many now decades old, remain in effect today. Some of them address situations (the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, for example) that may fairly be described as national emergencies. Others plainly do not, like those sanctioning people undermining democracy in Zimbabwe and Belarus, two emergencies initially declared during the George W. Bush administration and re-upped by Biden. However bad these situations are for the people of Zimbabwe and Belarus, they are not national emergencies for the United States, and Congress could have acted on these circumstances if it so chose.
Climate change is more obvio
Article from Reason.com