President Obama has once again reinstated the continuation of a national emergency concerning ‘certain’ terror threats. As defined in Black’s Law Dictionary a National Emergency is, “A state of national crisis; a situation demanding immediate and extraordinary national or federal action.”

“What the National Emergencies Act does is like a toggle switch, and when the president flips it, he gets new powers. It’s like a magic wand and there are very few constraints about how he turns it on”

Kim Lane Scheppele, Princeton Professor


The following are just some of the extraordinary powers granted to the president by issuing a national emergency:

  • To seize property
  • Call up the National Guard and hire and fire military officers at will
  • Reshape the military, putting members of the armed forces under foreign command
  • Conscripting veterans
  • Overturning sentences issued by courts-martial
  • Taking over weather satellites for military use
  • Suspend environmental laws, including a law forbidding the dumping of toxic and infectious medical waste at sea
  • Bypass federal contracting laws, allowing the government to buy and sell property without competitive bidding
  • Allow unlimited secret patents for Army, Navy and Air Force scientists


Currently, the United States is under 30 different states of emergency


  • Proc. 2040 Bank Holiday Mar. 6, 1933
  • Proc. 2941 Korean War Dec. 16, 1950
  • Proc. 2942 Postal Strike Mar. 23, 1970
  • Proc. 4074 Balance of Payments Crisis Aug. 15, 1971
  • E.O. 12170 Blocking Iranian Government Property Nov. 14, 1979
  • E.O. 12938 Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Nov. 14, 1994
  • E.O. 12947 Prohibiting Transactions with Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process Jan. 23, 1994
  • E.O. 12957 Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to the Development of Iranian Petroleum Resources Mar. 15, 1995
  • E.O. 12978 Blocking Assets and Prohibiting Transactions with Significant Narcotics Traffickers Oct. 21, 1995
  • Proc. 6867 Regulating the Anchorage and Movement of Vessels with Respect to Cuba Mar. 1, 1996
  • E.O. 13047 Prohibiting New Investment in Burma May 22, 1997
  • E.O. 13067 Blocking Sudanese Government Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Sudan Nov. 3, 1997
  • E.O. 13159 Blocking Property of the Government of the Russian Federation Relating to the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons June 21, 2000
  • E.O. 13219 Blocking Property of Persons Who Threaten International Stabilization Efforts in the Western Balkans June 26, 2001
  • E.O. 13222 Continuing Export Control Regulations Aug. 17, 2001
  • Proc. 7463 Declaration of National Emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks Sep. 14, 2001
  • E.O. 13224 Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Persons Who Commit,Threaten to Commit, or Support Terrorism Sep. 23, 2001
  • E.O. 13288 Blocking Property of Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Zimbabwe Mar. 6, 2003
  • E.O. 13303 Protecting the Development Fund for Iraq and Certain Other Property in Which Iraq Has an Interest May 22, 2003
  • E.O. 13338 Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Export of Certain Goods to Syria May 11, 2004
  • E.O. 13348 Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting theImportation of Certain Goods from Liberia July 22, 2004
  • E.O. 13396 Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in C‘ote d’Ivoire Feb. 7, 2006
  • E.O. 13405 Blocking Property of Certain Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Belarus June 16, 2006
  • E.O. 13413 Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Oct. 27, 2006
  • E.O. 13441 Blocking Property of Persons Undermining the Sovereigntyof Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions Aug. 1, 2007
  • E.O. 13466 Continuing Certain Restrictions with Respect to North Korea and North Korean Nationals June 26, 2008
  • E.O. 13536 Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in Somalia Apr. 12, 2010
  • E.O. 13566 Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Libya Feb. 25, 2011
  • E.O. 13581 Blocking Property of Transnational Criminal Organizations July 25, 2011
  • E.O. 13611 Blocking Property of Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen May 16, 2012
  • Declaration of a National Emergency with Respect to Venezuela March 09, 2015

I think of all the damnable heresies that have ever been suggested in connection with the Constitution, the doctrine of emergency is the worst. It means that when Congress declares an emergency, there is no Constitution.

Congressman James M. Beck, 1933

The National Emergencies Act

The National Emergencies Act, enacted September 14, 1976, is a United States federal law passed to stop open-ended states of national emergency and formalize the power of Congress to provide certain checks and balances on the emergency powers of the President. The Act of Congress imposes certain “procedural formalities” on the President when invoking such powers. The perceived need for the law arose from the scope and number of laws granting special powers to the executive in times of national emergency.

The initial draft of the NEA provided that the President would

only be authorized to declare a national emergency “[i]n the event

the President finds that the proclamation of a national emergency

is essential to the preservation, protection, and defense of the Con-

situation, and is essential to the common defense, safety, or well-

being of the territory and people of the United States.”

This language does not appear in the final bill, which places no conditions on the President’s ability to declare a national emergency.

“According to the United States Constitution, Article 1, only Congress shall make federal law. However, since the War and Emergency Powers Act of 1933, every president has usurped lawmaking powers. Their ‘laws’ are called Executive Orders (EOs). These EOs, not our Constitution, are what is governing America today. The War and Emergency Powers Act enables … the president to declare a national emergency, and thereby become a dictator.”

Paula Demers