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It’s Time to End the Rampant Abuse of Emergency Powers

The Emergency Powers Reform Project is focused on ending rampant government abuse of “emergency powers” that too often provide a false justification for bypassing Congress to implement policies that would never otherwise pass into law. While each emergency powers law is different, the end result is the same: an executive branch with way too much power over the determination and duration of what is supposed to be temporary emergency action. If Congress fails to act or does not have a veto-proof majority, presidents can continue using these laws as long as they wish.

Defense Production Act

The Defense Production Act of 1950 grants the president authority to centrally plan industry for national defense purposes, but lacks checks and balances and transparency requirements, making it ripe for abuse and mismanagement. In recent years, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the DPA has been abused for non-defense purposes and exploited to avoid fixing bad policies.

National Emergencies Act

Congress passed the National Emergencies Act of 1976 in an attempt to provide checks and balances to presidential emergency powers, but the law failed to achieve that goal. Presidents of both parties continue to misuse these powers to address long-standing policy problems instead of responding to temporary emergency events.

Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Congress created the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in 1975 to mitigate emergency-level disruptions of the petroleum supply after the 1973-1974 Arab Oil Embargo, but the Biden Administration abused the SPR to combat high prices for political, non-emergency purposes.