The “REIGN Act” requires U.S. President to turn over to Congress secret orders invoked in an emergency to claim extraordinary powers


Washington (May 5, 2020) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) announced he will be introducing the Restraint of Executive In Governing Nation (REIGN) Act, legislation that requires President Donald Trump, and future presidents, to turn over all presidential emergency action documents (PEADS) that may give the President extraordinary powers. PEADS are draft executive orders, proclamations, and messages to the U.S. Congress prepared by a presidential administration in advance of anticipated emergencies. Although Congress has made available to the President a number of emergency powers upon the declaration of a national emergency, the content of most PEADS have never been made public or shared with Congress, raising concerns that President Trump could use such documents to claim authority during the coronavirus pandemic that exceeds those given by Congress. Specifically, the REIGN Act requires the President turn over PEADS to Congress not later than 30 days after the approval, adoption, or revision of any PEAD, and requires the President to submit to Congress all PEADS currently in existence.


“President Trump is just plain wrong when he asserts that he has total authority,” said Senator Markey, a Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Donald Trump is not the first President to have a set of presidential emergency action documents ready to use, but he is the first to openly suggest that he believes his power to be total and without subject to oversight. Transparency is necessary to make sure that Americans’ rights aren’t being infringed upon and to remind the President that his power derives from the Constitution and the Congress, and is not total.”


A copy of the REIGN Act can be found HERE


Presidential emergency action documents originated during the Cold War as continuity-of-government measures in response to a possible nuclear attack by the Soviet Union, and could have allowed for the suspension of habeas corpus, warrantless seizures, and other actions that likely would have infringed upon the constitutional rights of American citizens. The Department of Justice has requested and received funds from Congress to update several dozen PEADS first developed in 1989, including requesting funds as recently as 2018. The funding requests contain no explanation of what these PEADS encompass, nor what standards will be used in reviewing them.