Sending Office: Honorable Justin Amash
House Liberty Caucus statement on H.J. Res. 46, relating to a national emergency declared by the president on February 15, 2019
February 26, 2019
The House Liberty Caucus urges support for
H.J. Res. 46, which terminates the president’s unconstitutional declaration of a “national emergency” at the southern border.
At the heart of the American constitutional system is the doctrine of separation of powers: Congress makes the laws; the president executes the laws; and the Supreme Court decides cases and controversies. Among the legislative powers vested solely in Congress
is the authority to appropriate federal funds, with Article I, Section 9, Clause 7, providing: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
Few dispute the president’s ability to act quickly to address a real emergency, but simply saying something is an emergency does not make it so and cannot on its own trigger emergency powers. Under our constitutional system, an emergency declaration permitting
the president to take unilateral action is valid only in an actual emergency, which is necessarily limited to a situation in which immediate action is needed, Congress has no opportunity to act, and the president’s proposed response can be accomplished quickly.
If any of these is not true, it cannot be an emergency necessitating (or permitting) presidential action without the consent of Congress.
Congress has debated immigration and border security for decades (with the last two years under unified Republican government). It has specifically considered the president’s funding requests and, with awareness of the current situation at the border, completed
the appropriations process with less funding for the border wall than requested. The president did not veto the bills that came to his desk. He now proposes to use an emergency declaration to pursue a multi-year construction project that will do nothing in
the immediate term to resolve the circumstances he characterizes as an emergency. This scenario clearly fails the emergency test.
As Chairman Amash has stated, an emergency declaration for a non-emergency is void. Congress cannot grant the president by statute the authority to assume legislative powers at will, turning the executive branch into a legislative branch whenever the president
uses magic words. This national emergency declaration does not conform to our Constitution, and Congress should terminate the president’s misuse of emergency powers before more harm is done to our constitutional system.
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