President George W. Bush flexed the National Emergencies Act in the days after the 2001 terrorist attacks, President Jimmy Carter used it during the Iranian hostage crisis, and President Barack Obama tapped it to handle the swine flu pandemic in 2009.
Now it’s President Trump who is eyeing the 1976 law, figuring it could be his ticket out of the shutdown showdown, allowing him to build his promised border wall without needing to get Congress to specifically approve the money.
The White House said no decision had been made in the run-up to Mr. Trump’s Tuesday night speech on border security, but the president was clearly eyeing the powers as a viable escape route.
Congressional Democrats and liberal activists warned of a constitutional crisis and promised they would fight any emergency declaration in the courts and in the halls of Capitol Hill.
“At the end of the day, the law allows him to declare what a national emergency is,” said William Cowden, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. “Whether the wall eventually gets built or not, it gives him an out to go back in and reopen government.”