In a massive show of support for limitless executive power, Congress rejected legislation that would have terminated national emergency powers allowing Washington to wage war across the Middle East.
These same emergency powers give the president the power to lift bans on testing biological weapons on US citizens.
Led by Representative Paul Gosar, a handful of Republican members of Congress launched a protest against 41 nominal “national emergency” declarations, many of which are decades old.
Rep. Gosar has argued the National Emergencies Act is “tyrannical,” granting 148 separate powers to the executive branch.
This July 18, the House voted down five resolutions to terminate national emergency powers which date back as far as 2003. The countries affected by the five resolutions include Congo, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq.
Each vote saw a coalition of pro-war Democrats and Republicans join together in overwhelming numbers to protect the executive branch’s emergency authorities.
Among the emergency declarations still in effect is one authorizing war on Libya on the basis that Muammar Ghadhafi posed an urgent threat to the US; one enabling economic warfare on Syria on the specious grounds that Damascus sponsors international terrorism; and another allowing the president to support Saudi Arabia’s military assault on Yemen, which resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.
Yet another emergency declaration provides the authority for the US government to test biological weapons on American citizens.
“It’s sad that we’re here for these five [emergency resolutions],” Rep. Gosar said on the House floor, warning “there’ll be 36 more coming your way.”
Gosar continued, “National emergencies are supposed to be rare and brief. The passing of the National Emergencies Act in the 1976 congress did not intend for the executive to utilize declarations for decades in order to apply sanctions. That is something Congress can do separately from a national emergency declaration.”
The resolution to relax sanctions against the Democratic Republic of Congo was introduced by Rep. Lauren Boebert. It would have terminated a 2006 emergency power, authorized via executive order, imposing sanctions on the property of Congolese nationals. President Biden extended these powers on the grounds that “the situation in or in relation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat” to US foreign policy.
By law, national emergency declarations are supposed to be reviewed by Congress every six months, yet none of the five in question have ever been subject to scrutiny. Boebert noted on the floor that in the 16 years since the national emergency related to Congo was declared, it should have been reviewed 31 times.
Congress has 41 unauthorized National Emergency declarations.
It is our job to do the hard work of conducting oversight every 6 months, as required by law, of these declarations that have been rubber stamped for nearly two decades.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, the corporate-sponsored ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed that relaxing sanctions on Congo would enable ISIS to open checking accounts at American banks. He offered no explanation as to why a designated terrorist group would opt to place its war chest so far behind enemy lines.
Rep. Eli Crane, an Iraq war veteran, sponsored the resolution to terminate the national emergency on Iraq, which was declared just months after the 2003 US invasion. At the time, the U.S. was engaged in an ostensible quest to unearth mythological weapons of mass destruction.
The U.S. military overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime within 3 weeks of being in Iraq.
There is no reason to risk the lives of American soldiers by maintaining a presence there.
The declaration has been widely criticized as a means of exerting neocolonial control over the Iraqi oil industry, and offering “a guarantee of immunity from prosecution for white-collar and corporate crimes that involve Iraqi oil.” The national emergency power was extended by the Biden administration this May.
Gosar and Rep. Matt Gaetz co-sponsored the resolution seeking to put an end to emergency powers on Syria This declaration was authorized by a 2004 executive order which introduced sanctions on the grounds that Damascus was “supporting terrorism” and “pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining US and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.”
The Biden administration extended the sanctions act this May. This time, the administration justified its economic assault on the basis of Syria’s supposed “chemical weapons and supporting terrorist organizations,” which “pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
On the House floor, Gaetz characterized the five national emergency declarations addressed in the resolutions as “dormant slush funds spending untold sums of money with no transparency as to how much is going into the ‘Syrian emergency.’”
Gosar’s resolutions focused on national emergency declarations around Yemen and Libya. “Heartlessly, the extended national emergency related to Yemen blocks the donations of food, clothing and medicine intended to relieve the human suffering by the people of Yemen,” he said in a recent press release, noting that an estimated 130 Yemeni children die every day due to famine:
“It is incomprehensible that a stated ‘emergency’ is used by our country to harm the people of another country, including forcing starvation and disease.”
In a separate press release on his Libyan emergency powers resolution, Gosar noted: “Almost hilariously, the extended national emergency related to Libya continues to cite Muammar Qadhafi as the reason for the declaration, even though Qadhafi has been dead for almost 12 years. You can’t make this stuff up.”
“At no time since 2011 has Libya posed a military or economic threat to the United States,” the congressman added. “The people of Libya deserve to live in a manner of their choosing without the prospect of U.S. bombings, attacks or color revolutions thrust upon them by corrupt and misguided American agencies – none of whom are acting with Congressional approval.”
Gosar has described the 148 national emergency powers available to the president as “tyrannical”. He noted there were 41 active national emergencies on the books, with one dating as far back as 1979.
“No president, regardless of party, should be handed a blank check and endless special powers that can be used to circumvent the normal democratic process, exceed their constitutional authority, and violate the balance of power,” Gosar wrote.
Among the powers granted by the National Emergencies Act is one allowing for the drafting of American citizens into active duty; another for seizure of radio stations; one for testing of biological and chemical weapons on American citizens; and another allowing for freezing U.S. citizens’ bank accounts, restrictions against anyone representing them as an attorney, from even renting property, or even selling groceries to them, Rep. Gosar noted on the House floor.
In arguing against terminating the national emergencies, Republican Rep. Mike Lawler insisted that the president would have to issue an executive order to invoke the emergency power to authorize testing biological weapons on American citizens, and that Congress would have the chance to deny that power. Still, he offered no justification for allowing the executive a pathway to such draconian powers.