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National Emergencies Act

Bill Number: HR-3884

Public Law Number: 94-412

Enacted - Signed by the President

Once the president signs a bill, it becomes a law.

Full title...
An act to terminate certain authorities with respect to national emergencies still in effect, and to provide for orderly implementation and termination of future national emergencies.

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Bill Text
Vote (House)
More Information

Sponsor & Key Contributors
Peter Rodino

Related Issues...
National Emergencies

Other names for this bill

This bill can be referred to as the NEA (acronym for National Emergencies Act).

What this bill does

This act explains the process a president needs to follow to declare a national emergency - and thereby activating certain emergency provisions of various laws.

However, it's primary purpose actually is to limit a president's emergency powers by specifying how Congress can cancel an emergency. Thus the bill's full title (see right sidebar).

What constitutes an emergency?

This bill does not make any attempt to define what constitutes an emergency - giving presidents the ability to use their own discretion.

However, Congress can act to end a declared emergency.

What happens when a president declares a national emergency?

Many laws contain provisions that may be invoked only in a declared emergency.

When a president formally declares a national emergency, they must specify which provisions they are activating.

The emergency remains in effect for one year. However, presidents can renew the emergency annually.

The bill originally allowed Congress to end a declared national emergency using a concurrent resolution passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. A concurrent resolution does not require presidential approval.

However, a 1983 Supreme Court decision declared that Congress could not unilaterally reverse actions by the president.

The 1985 Foreign Relations Authorization Act (Title VIII) amended the law to require a joint resolution - which requires approval of the president in order to take effect.

The bill actually requires Congress to vote every six months on whether to terminate an emergency. Congress has never held such a vote though, and courts have not found any way to enforce it.

For more information...

For more on national emergencies, see this Lawfare primer and this Association of State and Territorial Health Officials fact sheet.

To learn more about the powers a president could wield during a national emergency, see this Brennan Center for Justice report

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