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4 Mar, 2019 21:16

Congress silent as Trump extends national emergency – because it’s to sanction Russia

Congress silent as Trump extends national emergency – because it’s to sanction Russia

US President Donald Trump has informed Congress that he will extend the 2014 national emergency over Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, even as lawmakers look set to oppose his emergency declaration to protect the US border.

On Monday, Trump extended by one year the emergency declared by his predecessor Barack Obama in March 2014 with Executive Order 13660. It was set to expire on March 6. In the letter sent to Congress, Trump cited threats to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity and “actions and policies of the Government of the Russian Federation, including its purported annexation of Crimea and its use of force in Ukraine as continuing to present “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security and foreign policy.

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The extension enables Washington to maintain the sanctions against Russia imposed over its alleged conduct regarding Ukraine since the February 2014 US-backed coup in Kiev.

The letter and the announcement are required under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, under which 59 such emergencies have been declared, over 30 of which are still in effect. Obama declared national emergencies over the “situation” in Venezuela and Burundi, for example; Trump followed suit with regards to alleged human rights abuses and corruption in Myanmar and Nicaragua.

Most recently, however, Trump declared a national emergency over the situation on the US-Mexico border and used it to reprogram funds towards the construction of a border barrier. That seems to have been a step too far for Congress, which never objected to any emergency declarations in the past, but is dead-set on passing a joint resolution of disapproval for this one.

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Last week, the Democrat-majority House of Representatives voted 245-182 against the border emergency. Even though Republicans have a majority in the Senate, at least four GOP senators have come out against the emergency declaration as well, according to Roll Call. This means the disapproval resolution will likely pass in the Senate as well. It would be the first such pushback on national emergencies from Congress ever, and in all likelihood Trump’s first veto of his presidency.

By doing this, Congress is implicitly arguing that the situation in Burundi, Myanmar, Venezuela, Nicaragua or Ukraine represents a threat to the US worthy of a national emergency – but the security of the US border with Mexico does not.

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