Syndicated columnist Greg Sargent’s difficulty with the Trump emergency declaration [“Trump’s emergency plunges nation into peril” Feb 17, Opinion] seems misplaced. The worrisome problem he sees is that the word “emergency” is not defined in the National Emergency Act (NEA). What’s the problem with that? Why not look it up in the dictionary? The courts do that regularly when terms are not defined in legislation. According the Random House Learner’s Dictionary of American English © 2019 emergency is:
a sudden, urgent, usually unexpected event or happening requiring immediate action, as in “In an emergency, call the doctor.”
If the president can take any action he chooses, even where Congress has taken up the matter and declined to act (as in “Congress decided not to call the doctor”) — if he can do this and is free to act in any manner simply by making a unilateral declaration of an emergency, unsupported by any evidence, that is, where no real “emergency” (as defined above) exists — doesn’t that make the president a dictator? If the Supreme Court does not rely on the dictionary definition of “emergency” and require the president to present facts or evidence meeting that definition, that is an existential peril to our democracy. On the other hand, if the court should determine that Congress has granted the president such unbridled, unrestricted authority, that amounts to an unconstitutional delegation by Congress of its legislative authority.