Congress could overrule presidential declaration, but White House threatened veto of similar measure in March.
With COVID-19 pandemic conditions improving, the national emergency declared by the president could end through congressional action.
Sen. Roger “Doc” Marshall, MD, R-Kansas, has introduced a resolution that would end the national emergency first declared by President Donald J. Trump effective March 13, 2020. President Joe Biden extended the national emergency in February 2021 and in February this year.
“Since President Biden used his appearance on ‘60 Minutes’ to declare COVID is over, he must immediately terminate the COVID-19 national emergency declaration and wind down other emergency authorities that his administration continues to force us to live under,” Marshall said in a statement accompanying introduction of the resolution.
Marshall referred to the president’s Sept. 18 interview on the CBS News television show. The remarks prompted a round of new national debate among public health experts and news commentators, and on Sept. 21 Biden noted criticism about the remarks.
“But it basically is not where it was,” the president said about the pandemic, during a visit to New York.
“The American people are fatigued and yearning to operate outside of the confines of supersized government; they long for their God-given freedoms, and for leaders to take their side,” said Marshall, who made his career as an obstetrician-gynecologist before serving in public office. “In March the U.S. Senate voted for my Resolution to repeal this emergency declaration and delivered a symbolic victory that limited government and our constitutional rights still reign supreme.
“It’s high time to for Joe Biden and his administration stop using COVID to implement their partisan political agenda and focus on the surge in crime and the fentanyl epidemic that is wreaking havoc across this nation and killing Americans at record rates,” Marshall said.
The resolution refers to the National Emergencies Act (NEA), a federal law that allows Congress to review and possibly terminate the president’s emergency declarations.
Marshall cited the law’s provision that “each House of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether the emergency shall be terminated.”
“However, Congressional interpretation of this law has determined that the absence of a resolution introduced by any member signals unanimous consent for continuation,” said a statement published by Marshall’s office. “In failing to meet, debate, and vote on an emergency, Congress is effectively ceding more unchecked emergency powers to the executive similar to its failure to enforce War Powers provisions.”
It is not the first time Marshall has acted with legislation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. In March, the resolution had cosponsorship from Republican Senators Mike Braun of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rick Scott of Florida, Steve Daines of Montana, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and James Risch of Idaho, and the Senate passed it 48-47, prompting a veto threat from the White House.
The president argued the national emergency allows the administration to respond to COVID-19 quickly and more effectively than without it, which benefits health care workers and those who contract the illness. Ending it prematurely “would be a reckless and costly mistake,” the administration’s veto warning said.
“Our health care workforce has been incredibly resilient, but after two years of fighting the pandemic we must continue to do everything we can to limit the burdens on our health care system,” said the letter from the Office of Management and Budget in the president’s administration. “Preventing further strain on our health care workers and their ability to deliver care to COVID patients will also enable treatment of people suffering from other illnesses who are also put at risk when hospital systems are overwhelmed.”
The House of Representatives did not take up the March resolution.
Once the latest resolution is introduced and approved by the Senate parliamentarian, the Senate Finance Committee will consider it and make a recommendation to the full Chamber. Marshall noted the process is outlined in the NEA.