WASHINGTON (AP) — In November 1979, just over a week after student militants seized control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 U.S. citizens hostage, President Jimmy Carter issued Executive Order 12170 declaring a national emergency against Iran.
That order is still in effect today, most recently renovated in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving by President Joe Biden, who noted then that “our relations with Iran have not yet normalized.”
The Biden administration’s statement on August 4 of a monkeypox public health emergency frees up federal money and resources to fight a virus that has already infected over 10,000 people in the United States. But public health emergencies expire every 90 days, unless extended by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Those are different from national emergency declarations, which give presidents wide leeway to make policies and tap into federal funds without congressional approval. That is what the activists have claimed to fight better climate changebut Biden has endured despite power shortage in much of the world and high gas prices at home.
“This is actually the true test of whether President Biden is serious about the climate crisis,” Karen Orenstein, climate director at Friends of the Earth. “There couldn’t be a more crucial move.”
Presidents have declared 76 national emergencies in the past nearly five decades, and 42 remain in effect, according to a list compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
Biden has recently declared emergencies related to hostage-taking and US citizens detained abroad, while one extends over Mali. It has also been broadcast on Burma Y Afghanistan Y authorizing sanctions on Russia, Ethiopia and people associated with global illicit drug trade.
Such statements come mainly from the National Emergencies Act of 1976which came after President Richard Nixon issued a series of them, including on currency restrictions and a national postal strike.
The law requires those declarations to end automatically after one year, unless the president orders a renewal. Congress can also end emergencies, but doing so effectively requires a veto-proof two-thirds vote, which has never happened.
“The origin of the law was clearly an attempt to set limits on presidential power,” said Chris Edelson, author of “Emergency Presidential Power: From the Drafting of the Constitution to the War on Terror.” ”Before the actions passed, presidents could declare emergencies and no one really knew what that meant. And they stayed for decades.
An emergency declared in 1950 by President Harry S. Truman to combat communism globally in the context of the Korean War was still in effect in the 1970s, before the law.
However, the emergencies established since it went into effect have a similar extended shelf life. of President George W. Bush emergency three days after the 9/11 attacks still stands. President Donald Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency in 2020 and Biden has extended it at least until February 2023.
Only once has Congress discussed thwarting emergency declarations, Edelson said. That was in 2019, when 12 Senate Republicans joined the Democrats. to block Trump’s efforts to declare one on the US-Mexico border and allocate more than $6 billion from the military and other federal funds to build a wall. Triumph used a veto to preserve his border emergency declaration until Biden rejected it upon taking office.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, warned during the wall funding fight that allowing Trump to do what he wanted could allow future Democratic presidents to do the same on climate. Trump used a veto to uphold his border emergency declaration until Biden rejected it upon taking office.
“It sets long-term precedents,” Rubio told CNBC in 2019. “Tomorrow, the national security emergency could be climate change, so let’s seize fossil fuel plants or something.”
That prediction has yet to prove prophetic. Biden said last month that climate change “is an emergency” but did not issue a statement that would have allowed him to take major steps aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including limiting offshore drilling and exports. US oil
The White House has not said whether declaring a national climate emergency is now off the table. But it’s hard to imagine the administration imposing caps on oil and production after prices at the pump hit record highs. Since then, they have remained constant throughout the summer, a fact that the The White House has announced.
Still, declaring a national climate emergency could allow Biden to fundamentally move remake the American economy in a greener waya promise that was a centerpiece of his 2020 presidential campaign. The president has also promised to slash the the nation’s carbon emissions in half by 2030 — an objective that the climate provisions of the budget package are not sufficient to meet.
“Now more than ever we need to declare a climate emergency,” said Cassidy DiPaola, a spokeswoman for the Stop the Oil Profiteering campaign. She said the budget measure, known as the “Inflation Reduction Act,” is “totally chock-full of handouts to the fossil fuel industry.”
“Our message to Biden says, ‘Hey, you need to fix what the IRA left out and what the IRA sacrificed,’” DiPaola said, adding that of the measure, “This is Congress that approved the IRA. President Biden has still made all of these climate commitments.”
However, delaying a declaration of a national climate emergency for even that long may undermine the central argument that a crisis is looming.
“The real indicator that this really doesn’t meet the definition of an emergency provided by the law, even though it’s not clearly defined, is that it waited,” said Edelson, who is also a professor of government at American University in Washington. about climate concerns. “If it’s a real emergency, you act immediately.”
Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, countered that conservatives on the Supreme Court and in Congress have repeatedly defied popular opinion on important issues, underscoring the need for Biden to act unilaterally.
“Everyone agrees that the president can declare an emergency if there is a single fire or hurricane. But when the entire planet is experiencing heat waves, unprecedented fires are raging, and oceans are about to flood American cities, can’t the president declare that an existential climate emergency?” Green asked. “Clearly he has the power and his grandchildren depend on him to use it.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION