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Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump's power under Insurrection Act

Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump's power under Insurrection Act
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats introduced legislation Thursday to limit presidential power under the Insurrection Act after President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE warned that he could deploy active military troops into U.S. cities.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would require consultation with Congress before a president used the Insurrection Act and would limit use of the law to 14 days unless lawmakers pass a resolution to extend it. 

“President Trump has threatened to use a slavery-era law to silence calls for justice from thousands of Americans protesting centuries of racist oppression,” Blumenthal said in a statement.

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"I’m proposing urgently necessary reforms to impose oversight and accountability to the President’s broad, virtually unrestricted power. If the President uses military force against Americans at home, Congress should demand at least the same checks that apply to his use of force against adversaries abroad," he added.

The bill would also provide for an expedited judicial review for individuals, or state and local governments, who believe a president has abused his or her authority under the Insurrection Act. It would also prevent the U.S. military from taking part in "search, seizure, arrest" or similar activities unless specifically granted that authority under law.

Democrats are vowing to try to include the bill in a piece of massive defense policy legislation, known as the National Defense Authorization Act. It would mark one of several amendments Democrats are planning to offer after recent protests.

In addition to Blumenthal, Democratic Sens. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinInfrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak MORE (Wis.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (Md.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySchumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (Vt.), and Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMarkey rips GOP for support of Amy Coney Barrett: Originalism 'just a fancy word for discrimination' Ocasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes MORE (Mass.) are supporting the legislation, known as the Curtailing Insurrection Act Violations of Individuals’ Liberties (CIVIL) Act

"I am supporting the CIVIL Act because we cannot allow President Trump to weaponize our military and use active duty troops to violate the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters working to bring about the change our nation desperately needs,” Baldwin said in a statement.

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Blumenthal previously said Wednesday that he was working on legislation to rein in Trump's power under the Insurrection Act, characterizing his power now as "broad [and] virtually undefined." 

The Insurrection Act has emerged as a rolling point of debate after 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 appeared to walk back the idea of sending military forces into U.S. cities, saying Wednesday that he didn't think it would be necessary. 

"It depends. I don’t think we’ll have to. We have very strong powers to do it. The National Guard is customary, and we have a very powerful National Guard," Trump told Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerThe Memo: Trump allies have hope, urge new approach in crucial last debate Spicer mocks Pelosi claim of CNN being GOP 'apologists': 'Had no idea I had Wolf Blitzer in my pocket' Debate moderator Steve Scully says his Twitter account was hacked as president accuses him of being a 'Never Trumper' MORE, his former press secretary, in an interview on Newsmax.