Today, Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) launched a major new project focused on reforming government abuse of emergency powers. Too often, emergency powers provide a false justification for bypassing Congress to implement policies that would never otherwise pass into law. AFPF’s Emergency Powers Reform Project will leverage the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to bring much needed transparency to emergency action and help educate the public and lawmakers on ways these powers are abused.
Federal emergency powers laws have long lacked the proper checks and balances, and in some cases, any obligation for proactive transparency. While each law is different, the end result is the same – an Executive Branch with way too much power over the determination and duration of what is supposed to be temporary emergency action. If Congress fails to act or does not have a veto-proof majority, presidents can continue using these laws as long as they wish.
Kevin Schmidt, AFPF Director of Investigations, said:
“Emergency powers are intended to empower the Executive Branch to respond to actual temporary emergencies, yet we’ve seen time and again presidents of both parties misuse these powers to advance their own political agenda. With little to no oversight or transparency, these powers are routinely abused. And despite bipartisan calls for reform, history shows presidents are reluctant to let go of authority on their own. Congress needs to act.”
AFPF’s Emergency Powers Reform Project will focus on reforming three key areas that have proven ripe for abuse: the use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Defense Production Act, and the National Emergencies Act. In each case, the Executive Branch is given broad authority to unilaterally define what constitutes emergency use of any of these powers, and in some cases the expanded statutory powers unlocked through the declarations can persist for decades.
Read more about recent examples of abuse and recommendations for reform in the Project’s first issue briefs below:
- Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Repeatedly tapped to combat high prices for political, non-emergency purposes.
- Defense Production Act: Frequently used for non-defense purposes and exploited to avoid fixing bad policy.
- National Emergencies Act: Routinely misused to address long-standing policy failures rather than responding to temporary emergency events.
The Emergency Powers Reform Project will use FOIA investigations to bring transparency to how emergency declarations are made and educate lawmakers on the urgent need for reform – especially in advance of the requirement to reauthorize the Defense Production Act in September of 2025.
To learn more, visit emergencypowersreform.org.