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Key Facts

National Emergencies Do Not Expand Constitutional Power
Expanding Authority
During times of national emergency, it is common for Congress and the presidency to increase their authority. Which leads to an important question: do the federal government’s constitutional powers expand in times of emergency?
Not Even in Emergencies
The Constitution enumerates a limited number of federal powers. Only one of them explicitly expands in an emergency: the writ of habeas corpus may be suspended in time of rebellion or invasion. The remaining federal powers are firmly set within certain limits, so as not to infringe upon the rights reserved to individuals and states. Moreover, the individual rights enumerated in the Constitution do not contain emergency exceptions.
State Governments and Constitutions
Under our system of federalism, state governments retain the “police power” to regulate public health and safety under the Tenth Amendment. But fortunately, that authority is limited by the states’ own constitutions. In other words, individual rights can’t be taken away.
A Preventive Measure
Not only do constitutional limitations prevent temporary violations from becoming permanent, they also prevent leaders from cultivating emergencies in order to expand their authority.