Blumenthal to introduce legislation to limit Trump’s power under Insurrection Act
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said on Wednesday that he will introduce legislation to rein in President Trump’s powers under the Insurrection Act.
“I will be proposing legislation to reform the Insurrection Act to establish restrictions on the president’s now very vague … authority,” Blumenthal told reporters.
He added in a tweet that his forthcoming legislation would change “the President’s broad, virtually undefined power,” as well as build in “accountability.”
“Clear [and] present threats to Constitutional rights, including free assembly [and] speech, make change urgent,” Blumenthal said.
I’m introducing reforms to the Insurrection Act, restricting the President’s broad, virtually undefined power, & imposing accountability. Clear & present threats to Constitutional rights, including free assembly & speech, make change urgent.
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) June 3, 2020
The Insurrection Act has emerged as a rolling point of debate after President Trump warned that he could deploy the military if local and state officials aren’t able to quell days of protests and riots sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed while detained by Minneapolis police.
“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” Trump said at the White House this week. “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the U.S. military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
The U.S. military is generally banned from conducting law enforcement on U.S. soil, but the 1807 Insurrection Act can override that prohibition. It was last used in 1992 by former President George H.W. Bush at the request of California’s governor to quell the Rodney King riots.
Trump’s remarks have sparked pushback from Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said that he believed the National Guard was “best suited” to respond to the riots.
“I say this not only as secretary of Defense, but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard. The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” he added. “We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
Several GOP senators also said on Tuesday that they did not support Trump invoking the Insurrection Act.
“I don’t think militarization is the answer to the anxiety and fear, the distrust … that we feel right now. It is not the response,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, told reporters on Tuesday that he would “prefer that these things be handled by the state and local authorities. … You want to de-escalate rather than escalate.”
He added on Wednesday that Esper made the “right call” to oppose invoking the Insurrection Act.
“I think the Defense Department by and large ought to stay out of the political fray. They’ve got a job to do and we count on them heavily to do it,” he said.