1976 September 14

National Emergencies Act Limits Presidential Power


The National Emergencies Act, enacted on this day, was the first effort by Congress to place controls over presidential national emergency proclamations. It was another of several post-Watergate reforms designed to limit presidential power. Unlimited proclamations of national emergency pose a threat to civil liberties by extending special presidential powers long after the original emergency has passed. President Truman’s 1950 national emergency proclamation of December 16, 1950, for example, was still in effect in 1976. The new law forced its termination on this day.

Despite the law, however, between 1976 and 2001, there were 32 declared national emergencies, most involving restricting foreign trade with certain nations.

Learn more: Harry Helms, Inside the Shadow Government: National Emergencies and the Cult of Secrecy (2004)

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