Following the longest government shutdown in American history, the White House announced on Thursday that President Trump was prepared to sign a spending bill in order to keep the government open. However, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump also planned to declare a national emergency, in order to "stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border." If Trump does declare a national emergency, his would not be the only one; there are currently 31 other national emergencies still in effect.
According to ABC News, presidents have declared a total of 58 national emergencies since the National Emergencies Act (NEA) was first signed into law in 1976. Of those 58, 31 have been renewed on an annual basis and are therefore still in effect. New York University's Brennan Center for Justice reported that former President Jimmy Carter was the first to declare a national emergency under the NEA.
In 1979, Carter issued an emergency declaration to freeze Iran's assets in the United States during the Iran hostage crisis. A national emergency typically stays in place for one year, but presidents can choose to renew them — and as a result, that first national emergency is still in effect, the Miami Herald reported, having been renewed most recently in November.
Of the other 30 ongoing national emergencies, ABC News reported that six were declared by former President Bill Clinton, 11 by former President George W. Bush, 10 by former President Barack Obama, and three by Trump himself. Most of these national emergencies have invoked the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which allows the president to freeze assets, impose sanctions, and block certain financial transactions implicating foreign countries or foreign nationals.
For example, Clinton declared three separate national emergencies in 1995, and the IEEPA accounted for all of them. In his emergency declarations, Clinton imposed economic sanctions in response to the Jerusalem bombing, prohibited certain transactions to prevent the development of Iranian petroleum resources, and blocked assets pertaining to narcotics traffickers in Colombia.
All three of these national emergencies are still in place today; in fact, The Washington Post's David Nakamura reported that Trump renewed the Middle East peace sanctions just last month.
Other national emergencies that are still in place include two that Bush declared in the aftermath of 9/11. One attempted to address the immediate threat of any additional terrorist attacks on the United States, while the other focused on individuals who commit or support acts of terrorism against the United States. According to the Atlantic, the Patriot Act gave more weight to these national emergency declarations, though it has since been widely criticized due to privacy concerns.
The 10 national emergencies from the Obama that are still in place address numerous international crises, targeting countries including Yemen, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Burundi. Trump, meanwhile, has declared national emergencies pertaining to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, potential meddling in the 2018 midterm elections, and reported violence in Nicaragua.
The NEA states that Congress is required to meet once every six months to vote on ongoing national emergencies — to decide whether to continue approving them or not. However, USA Today reported that Congress has never actually done this, which might explain why so many national emergencies remain in effect today.