On September 21, 2011, President Obama served notice that he would continue the state of national emergency that George W. Bush put into place on September 14, 2001 in the wake of the attacks of 9/11.
America has been in a continuous state of National Emergency for 10 years now.
In order to continue this declared state, the National Emergencies Act requires that the President make this notice of continuation annually or the additonal powers and authorities granted the executive will expire automatically.
The act also requires specific actions by Congress, to wit (Title 50 USC Chapter 34 subchapter II section 1622b):
"Not later than six months after a national emergency is declared, and not later than the end of each six-month period thereafter that such emergency continues, each House of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated. "
Congress has not yet, in the past 10 years fulfilled its legal responsibility to hold the required meeting or vote on a joint resolution regarding the declaration of the state of national emergency.
Congress has utterly abdicated its responsibility to hold the President accountable.
Follow me over the squiggle for more.
Does 10 years seem long for an emergency to you?
In a Congressional Research Service report (pdf) on National Emergency Powers, Harold Relyea discusses the definition of an emergency:
There are perhaps at least four aspects of an emergency condition. The first is
its temporal character: an emergency is sudden, unforeseen, and of unknown
duration. The second is its potential gravity: an emergency is dangerous and
threatening to life and well-being. The third, in terms of governmental role and
authority, is the matter of perception: who discerns this phenomenon? The
Constitution may be guiding on this question, but not always conclusive. Fourth,
there is the element of response: by definition, an emergency requires immediate
action, but is, as well, unanticipated and, therefore, as Corwin notes, cannot always
be “dealt with according to rule.”
In the ten years since the attacks of 9/11 there has been a large-scale investigation of the event replete with congressional hearings, the publication of a book length report, the creation of of whole new federal, state and local agencies and commissions, promulgation of countless government policies on homeland security and the successful interdiction of numerous terrorism-related activities.
Certainly we can now say that the sort of activities that the state of emergency was declared in reaction to are no longer unforeseen or unanticipated.
Another thing that has happened in the 10 years since George W. Bush declared a state of national emergency is that America has been embroiled in two long-running wars, and the additional powers that Mr. Bush and now Mr. Obama have claimed by perpetuating this "emergency" have mostly to do with enabling them to expand the military beyond the limits set by appropriations, hold troops beyond the period of their enlistment, waive limits on reserves and recall retirees to active duty. These powers have allowed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to drag on and the failure of Congress to hold the President accountable for these powers makes them complicit in perpetuating these wars of choice which arguably harm our national security and surely have drastically damaged our economy.
Now that troops are being drawn down and removed from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems fair to question why the President would continue to need emergency authority to expand or maintain a larger military than the already large military that Congress has authorized. Ten years is also long enough for Congress to reconsider the size requirements and conditions of service necessary to meet ongoing needs.
So here's the take away...
The President's action and Congress's inaction in this matter show that the partisan shadow-boxing that goes on in Washington is just so much kabuki for the cameras. There certainly is no "deep partisan divide" about serving the interests of elites like bankers and the military industrial complex. This matter amply demonstrates the utter failure of our election system to deliver a government that provides real checks and balances to represent the interests of the war-weary and economically damaged American public.