Op-ed: Congress must restrict emergency powers of the president

President Joe Biden announced a series of executive steps to fight climate change last week, disappointing members of his left-wing base who continue to demand that he declare an official climate emergency – a threatened action of the sort that critics at the Washington Examiner suggest Congres must take immediate action to prevent.

Stopping short of emergency declaration sought by the left, Biden took it upon himself to provide over $2 billion in funding for natural disaster preparation and retrofitting, to leverage funding to assist low-income Americans with heating and cooling expenses, and to propose new offshore wind energy generation sites in the Gulf of Mexico, among other initiatives, as CNBC reported.

Even so, environmental activists were far from satisfied with Biden’s actions, going so far as to take their protest to the doorstep of White House chief of staff Ron Klain on Saturday, reiterating their calls for a climate emergency declaration, something which would give the president expansive new executive powers to address what they believe is the existential crisis of our time.

However, as the Examiner‘s editors note, such overwrought concerns about the climate feel very much like subterfuge through which the executive branch might seize dangerous levels of unprecedented power to control vast swaths of the economy.

“If the world were really suffering a climate emergency,” the editors write, “President Joe Biden would not have traveled thousands of miles to beg the Saudis to produce more oil just to drive down gas prices ahead of an election he fears his party is going to lose.”

Further, the Examiner notes, “A Biden emergency declaration on climate would also be the height of hypocrisy, since he would be drawing on the exact same legal authority, the National Emergencies Act [NEA] of 1976, that then-President Donald Trump used to commandeer federal funds for his border wall. At the time, Democrats called Trump’s declaration ‘a reckless disregard for the separation of powers and [Trump’s] own responsibilities under our constitutional system.’”

The editors point out that while a federal court eventually reined in Trump’s declaration, they argue that Congress should have had the ability to do in much quicker fashion, and that the current requirement that both the House and Senate pass a joint resolution ending such a emergency must go.

By adopting Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) Article One Act, presidential emergencies would be automatically terminated after 30 days unless the House and Senate jointly agree to their continuation, and that, according to the Examiner, is the sort of sensible check on runaway executive power that this administration – and any other that follows – desperately requires.