Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dems poised to repeal martial law provision

From CQ:
Bowing to robust lobbying by U.S. governors, members of Congress appear poised to repeal a law enacted just a year ago that expanded the president’s power to invoke martial law.

Both the House and Senate have passed defense authorization bills (HR 1585) that would undo the provision in a law (PL 109-364) that augmented the circumstances in which the president may use the military, even without governors’ consent, to enforce the law at home during crises. A House-Senate conference is writing the bill’s final version, and the provision is unlikely to change...

“The current law is a dangerous consolidation of power in the presidency,” said Mark Udall, D-Colo., a House Armed Services member, in a statement.

Udall, who wrote the provision that would repeal the 2006 law, said the proposed change “restores this control of the Guard to the governors who, with their local law enforcement and emergency response officials, know their communities and are best able to respond to catastrophic events.”

Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said in a statement: “After we passed last year’s bill, the governors and others expressed concern about the possible implications of the change. After looking into those concerns, the committee felt we should return to the original law.”
Of course they did, the new law shifted the burden of legal proof onto anyone who would stand in the way of a president grabbing control of the military for domestic police activities. The original 200-year-old law allowed the president to deploy regular or Guard troops for police duties whenever laws were not being enforced or the rights of a class of people are being denied because of “insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy." The 2006 revision to the Insurrection Act added new provision that trigger the expanded executive power, including “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident or other condition,” according to the article.

Thankfully, the White House has not (yet anyway) issued a veto threat over the change, though there are already several standing over other provisions in the defense bill.

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