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Presidential national
emergencies of the past

A history of national emergency invoked by US presidents

By Byron Toben

The recent use of “national emergency” powers by U.S. President Trump to transfer Defence Department funds to build a wall along the U.S./Mexico border has invited a history of the source and uses of this power.

Sources

The U.S. Constitution is not the express source. The closest mentioning may be Article 2, Section 3 Clause 5 wherein the President must “take care” that the laws be “faithfully executed”.

The 1976 National Emergencies Act adopted formal procedures to declare a national emergency.

Nazi Germany - Westmountmag.ca

Nazi Germany – Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1970-005-28 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Invocations

Pre-1976 invocations were by “proclamation”.

Eight-year President Wilson used this one time:
1917 – Water Transportation

Eleven-year President Roosevelt four times:
1933 – Bank Holiday
1935 – Cotton Control
1939 – Neutrality
1941 – Nazi Germany

Seven-year President Truman one time:
1950 – Korean War

Five-year President Nixon two times:
1970 – Postal Strike
1971 – Import Controls

Post 1976 invocations were mostly “sanctions” by executive order.

Four-year President Carter two times:
1979 – Iran assets
1980 – Iran

Iran hostage crisis – Image: via Wikimedia Commons

Eight-year President Reagan six times:
1983 – Export Controls
1984 – Export Controls
1985 – Nicaragua
1985 – South Africa
1986 – Libya
1988 – Panama

Eight-year President Clinton nine times:
1994 – Haiti
1994 – Arms
1995 – Terrorists
1995 – Iran Oil
1995 – Columbia
1996 – Cuba
1997 – Burma
1997 – Sudan
1998 – Yugoslavia

Sarayevo grave digger - Westmountmag.ca

Sarayevo grave digger – Image: Mikhail Evstafiev [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Eight-year President Bush, Jr. 13 times:
2001 – Sierra Leona Diamonds
2001 – Western Balkans
2001 – Export Controls
2001 – Terrorist Attacks
2001 – Blocking Assets of Terrorists
2003 – Zimbabwe
2003 – Iraq
2004 – Syria
2006 – Cote d’Ivoire
2006 – Belarus
2006 – Congo
2007 – Lebanon
2008 – North Korea

Eight-year President Obama 12 times:
2010 – Flu Pandemic
2010 – Somalia
2011 – Libya
2011 – Organized Crime
2012 – Yemen
2012 – Russia Nuclear Waste
2014 – Crimea
2014 – South Sudan
2014 – Central African Republic
2015 – Venezuela
2015 – Burundi

Iraq war - WestmountMag.ca

Iraq war – Image: U.S. Marine Corps [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Two-year (so far) President Trump four times:
2017 – Myanmar
2018 – U.S. Election Interference
2018 – Nicaragua
2019 – Southern Border Wall

Presidents who never invoked national emergency since Wilson’s first usage in 1917:

Three-year President Harding
Six-year President Coolidge
Four-year President Hoover
Three-year President Kennedy
Three-year President Ford
Four-year President Bush, Sr.

Feature image: US-Mexico border wall at Tijuana – © Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com / via Wikimedia CommonsBouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre – WestmountMag.ca

Read more articles from Byron Toben


Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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