WASHINGTON — The United States is in a perpetual state of national emergency.
Thirty separate emergencies, in fact.
An emergency declared by President Jimmy Carter on the 10th day of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 remains in effect almost 35 years later.
A post-9/11 state of national emergency declared by President George W. Bush — and renewed six times by President Obama — forms the legal basis for much of the war on terror.
Tuesday, President Obama informed Congress he was extending another Bush-era emergency for another year, saying “widespread violence and atrocities” in the Democratic Republic of Congo “pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.”
Those emergencies, declared by the president by proclamation or executive order, give the president extraordinary powers — to seize property, call up the National Guard and hire and fire military officers at will.
“What the National Emergencies Act does is like a toggle switch, and when the president flips it, he gets new powers. It’s like a magic wand. and there are very few constraints about how he turns it on,” said Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor at Princeton University. Continue reading