Under the bill introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a president would have to consult Congress before invoking the Insurrection Act, which Mr. Blumenthal dismissed as a “slavery-era law.” That assertion of presidential power could only last 14 days without the explicit approval of Congress.
“President Trump has threatened to use a slavery-era law to silence calls for justice from thousands of Americans protesting centuries of racist oppression,” Mr. Blumenthal said in a statement, quoted in The Hill.
“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.
Mr. Trump has broached using the Insurrection Act to quell riots, if city mayors and state governors don’t, that have mushroomed in the wake of demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The bill, titled the Curtailing Insurrection Act Violations of Individuals’ Liberties (CIVIL) Act, also would speed judicial review of cases charging a president with abusing authority under the Insurrection Act. It also would bar the U.S. military from “search, seizure, arrest” or similar activities without specifically granted legal authority.
The Democrats say they want to attach it to a must-pass piece of legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets military policies.
The Democratic co-sponsors include Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
“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,” Ms. Baldwin said in a statement.
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