VIDEO:  Peters Convenes Hearing to Examine Congressional Oversight Over Executive Emergency Powers

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a hearing to examine the uses and potential abuses of emergency powers. The hearing highlighted the current limits associated with presidential emergency powers and explored options for legislative reform to the National Emergencies Act (NEA) to prevent misuse. The witnesses discussed past reform efforts and the need to ensure Congress has the capabilities to effectively oversee emergencies. 

“When a crisis unfolds, our government needs to be able to respond. Whether it’s a pandemic, extreme weather, or a foreign attack, we must be ready to protect the safety and security of our citizens. In order to act quickly when disaster strikes, Congress has given the President broad emergency powers,” said Peters during his opening statement. “Most emergency powers have never been used, but they could potentially bring sweeping changes to our government, economy, and society. These powers could allow the government to take over communication channels, control transportation systems, halt trade with other countries, and more. Without an appropriate check from Congress, there is a risk that these powers could be misused or abused.” 

To watch video of Senator Peters’ opening remarks, clickhere.For text of Peters’ opening remarks as prepared, clickhere.

To watch video of Senator Peters’ questions, clickhere.

During the hearing, Peters and the witnesses discussed current risks associated with the NEA and the need to pass reforms to ensure Congress has the authority to end a national emergency if there is an abuse of power.

Liza Goitein, Senior Director of the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, discussed the dangers associated with not reforming the NEA and highlighted that a president could issue sweeping measures under the current authorities. Satya Thallam, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for American Innovation, described the need to reform these powers to have Congress approve emergency declarations rather than the current law, which requires Congress to disapprove them. The witnesses further explained the need for these emergency powers to respond quickly to disasters like pandemics, weather events, and foreign attacks.