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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 TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call 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 BaldwinK Street navigates virtual inauguration week Senate Democrats call on Biden to immediately invoke Defense Production Act Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 MORE (Wis.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Romney calls for Senate to pass sanctions on Putin over Navalny poisoning 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (Md.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Democrats swear in three senators to gain majority MORE (Vt.), and Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyDemocrats shoot down McConnell's filibuster gambit Biden signs executive order invoking 2-year lobbying ban for appointees Five centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote 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 SpicerSean Spicer applies to join White House Correspondents' Association GOP lawmakers are showing up more frequently on Newsmax Making America dull again MORE, his former press secretary, in an interview on Newsmax.