President Trump

Here’s What Donald Trump Can And Can’t Do In A State Of Emergency

Kristine Lofgren - Author
By

Mar. 13 2020, Updated 9:33 p.m. ET

Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency on Friday over the coronavirus pandemic, prompting some to question whether or not he can use the presidential powers to benefit himself by declaring that he can stay in office longer and delay the 2020 elections in November.

For instance, Ian Bremmer, a political scientist and columnist for Time Magazine, tweeted on Friday, wondering how long it would be before Trump suggested postponing the upcoming election. However, the 1988 Stafford Act — which is the provision that enables the president to declare a state of emergency — limits the powers that the commander-in-chief can use.

“To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort today, I am officially declaring a national emergency,” Trump said.

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As USA Today reports, the Stafford Act opens up aid for local and state governments. Trump’s declaration also allowed Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to waive laws and licensing requirements to make it easier for doctors and hospitals to tackle the virus. It also allows hospitals to add physicians to their staff temporarily and increases the capacity that medical facilities can handle during the emergency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened up over $40 billion in funding for areas that need it, despite the fact that Congress hasn’t injected money into the public health emergency fund since 1999.

The Stafford Act requires state officials to request that the president declares a state of emergency. In this case, Washington Governor Jay Inslee made the request to Vice President Mike Pence.

“By declaring a national emergency, the federal government can provide states with direct assistance to meet our residents’ needs for health care, shelter, food and cash assistance, and more,” he said.

While state officials can delay their presidential primaries if they choose, the presidential election is a different matter entirely.

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The 20th Amendment says clearly that the presidential term ends on January 20 and their successor takes over. If a president isn’t picked before then, the vice president steps in until a new president is chosen. If neither a president nor a vice president has been chosen by the people, Congress decides who will lead the country until the electors choose someone.

When it comes to holding an election, the states control the process, not the president, and Congress sets the date of the election. If there is a failure to hold a nationwide election, the speaker of the house steps in to assume the job. In this case, that would mean Nancy Pelosi would become president on January 20, 2021.

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