C08 american government presidential emergency powers



Throughout American history, presidents have faced emergencies that would require swift and decisive action. While the founding fathers gave the executive branch wide-ranging power and flexibility in running the executive branch, no specific emergency powers were listed in the Constitution. Any emergency power granted to the president would be implied in the Constitution rather than specifically expressed. As a result of this, Congress has been called upon to grant emergency powers to presidents throughout US history. In other times of emergency, presidents would use executive orders to respond to crisis. In this paper, you’ll explore these powers, their constitutionality, and your opinion on these powers.

Assignment Instructions

With this project you’ll answer some essential questions around the main topic question:

Should the president have extra powers in a time of emergency? If so, what should be the limits on such powers?

You should use research to form your opinions and support your arguments. The paper should address the central question and include the topics provided to help you organize and present the information. This project will be four to six pages in total.


Try to address each topic or set of questions directly and as thoroughly as possible.

National Emergencies Act (approximately 1-1.5 pages) Research the National Emergencies Act (1976) and answer the following:

  • What is the National Emergencies Act of 1976 and what powers      does it grant to the president?
  • What criteria are set up for when and why a president could      declare a national emergency?
  • Research and provide information on a time in the past 10 years      when this act has been used by a president to declare an emergency.      Provide information on how this move was viewed by the major political      parties (Republican and Democrat) at the time the emergency was declared.

Historical Emergencies (approximately 1-1.5 pages): Pick and research three times in American history when a president used power outside of his usual constitutional powers to address a crisis and complete the following in two pages:

  • Describe the crisis and the      action taken by the president to address that crisis.
  • Did the president in each of      these situations face pushback from Congress or the public? Describe the      nature of that opposition.

Constitutionality of presidential emergency actions (approximately 1-1.5 pages): Choose two times in American history when a president used powers in an emergency and the Supreme Court weighed in on the constitutionality of the president’s actions. Pick one in which the Supreme Court upheld emergency actions and one in which it struck down a president’s actions.

  • Describe the emergency action      taken by the president, the court case that challenged it, and the result      of that case. Include the reasoning provided by the justices in making      their decisions.

Your opinion/thesis: Based on what you’ve researched, answer the question:

  • Should the president have extra      powers in a time of emergency? If so, what should be the limits on such      powers?
  • Use expert opinions and      historical examples to support your arguments.


Should the president have extra powers in a time of emergency?

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