Political Emergencies, Past, Present, and Future

It has been interesting to watch liberals and Democrats respond to President Trump invoking the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to build his wall, now that he found out where President Obama hid his famous pen and phone. Instead of reflecting on—and then correcting—an overbroad and improvident congressional grant of power to the president, they are saying, “Just wait till we get back in power! Our gal [bet on a gal] will use the same emergency power to tackle gun control and climate change!”

I’m tempted to suggest that Trump ought to declare a new national emergency every day until Democrats get the message and cooperate with Republicans to reassert proper congressional authority. But I doubt that Democrats have it in them to do so, because they like outsize executive power. Their only real complaint right now is that the wrong person is using it.* Anyone pay attention in history class to the legal authority Franklin Roosevelt invoked to declare the famous bank holiday in 1933? He used the World War I-era “Trading with the Enemy Act,” and I’m sure an inventive lawyer then or now could make a connection between your local bank and the legacy of the Central Powers from 15 years before somehow. But seriously.

I’ve been mulling over how a prospective President Kamala Harris would proceed with a national emergency over climate change. Issue the declaration! Then what? What’s the next sentence? What are the concrete measures? Odd-even driving days or gasoline rationing? Mandatory thermostat controls through the “smart meters” we all have now to reduce our home energy use? Trade embargo on China? Restrictions on international finance? Reviving Solyndra?

There are tertiary statutes that enable a president to do most of these things. Did you know that federal oil leases all have clauses in them that permit them to be suspended in times of national emergency? President Harris could order that all oil, gas, and coal production on federal lands (and offshore) be halted immediately. The lefty Brennan Center compiled a whole list of things a president could do if she declared climate change to be a national emergency. And that’s where the fun begins.

Why did Trump fold on the government shutdown, and not cause a second one by agreeing to a weak budget deal? Because (if the stories are to be believed) air travel was about to collapse, and Trump’s public support along with it. It’s one thing to scrape together a few billion dollars to build some wall as Trump is proposing, but it’s another thing to commandeer the entire energy sector as a climate emergency would require. How long do you think the public would support the draconian measures the climatistas would want to impose? Not long is my guess. I think you can file this “climate emergency” idea in the climate skeptics’ “please don’t throw me into that briar patch” file. Bring it on I say.

* And you know what happens when the right people don’t have power—the wrong people get it!

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