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By Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Yet another Missouri lawmaker has resigned just ahead of a new constitutional amendment limiting his ability to become a lobbyist.

Democratic Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis resigned at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. That was one minute before a voter-approved amendment took effect requiring lawmakers to wait two years before registering as lobbyists.

State law had required only a six-month lobbyist waiting period.

Curtis, of Ferguson, will give up about $3,000 in salary by resigning a month before his term was to end. His resignation letter didn’t cite a reason.

There now are 13 vacancies in the 163-member House and three in the 34-member Senate. Nearly a third of those came after voters approved Constitutional Amendment 1 on Nov. 6.

Some left earlier to take jobs in Gov. Mike Parson’s administration.

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returns to Supreme Court for first time since cancer surgery



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By Pete Williams and Elisha Fieldstadt

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to work in the Supreme Court on Friday after more than a month off the bench following surgery.

Ginsburg, 85, is meeting with the other justices for a regular closed-door conference, a court spokeswoman said.

The justice missed her first courtroom argument in 25 years of service Jan. 7 following surgery Dec. 21 to remove a portion of her lung after cancerous nodules were detected.

The cancerous spots were discovered when she sought treatment Nov. 7 for three fractured ribs after she fell in her office.

The court had said after Ginsburg’s surgery that there was no sign of other cancer, that no additional treatment was planned and that Ginsburg would be working from home.

Ginsburg had made a point of returning to the court promptly after two earlier surgical procedures for cancer in 1999 and 2009.

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What is a national emergency? Here are 8 things to know



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 / Updated 

By Dareh Gregorian

President Donald Trump on Friday declared a “national emergency” to pay for his wall on the southern border.

1. What is it?

Presidents have long had broad discretion to declare national emergencies and can tap into an array of emergency powers when they do.

While those emergency powers aren’t spelled out in the Constitution, legal scholars say the president is entitled to them under the broadly defined “executive power.” Abraham Lincoln used the power to suspend habeas corpus during the Civil War, while Franklin Roosevelt used it to order the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Congress set out to limit the power after the Watergate scandal with the National Emergencies Act of 1976. The act scaled back the provisions of federal law that granted emergency authority to the president — then about 470 — and was intended to give lawmakers a way to check presidential power.

2. What are the powers?

An analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal law and public policy institute, at New York University’s School of Law identified 136 statutory powers that emergency declarations could give the president, covering everything from the military and land use to public health and agriculture. The president could, for example, take over or shut down radio stations or even “suspend a law that prohibits the testing of chemical and biological weapons on unwitting human subjects,” the analysis says.

In the case of Trump’s border wall, the president is relying on Section 2808 of the Title 10 U.S. Code. It says if the president declares a national emergency “that requires use of the armed forces,” the defense secretary “may undertake military construction projects … not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces.”

3. Can Congress stop it?

Theoretically, but not likely. The National Emergencies Act originally held that Congress could repeal a presidential emergency declaration with a simple majority vote in both houses, but that was later amended because of a 1983 Supreme Court ruling involving separation of powers. As a result, both houses of Congress would have to act with a veto-proof supermajority, according to some experts. That’s highly unlikely, since the current divided Congress has had problems even keeping the government open.

4. Can the courts?

Possibly. Washington Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said on MSNBC’S “The Rachel Maddow Show” that such a measure would “be subject to a court challenge very quickly.”

Trump acknowledged to reporters at the White House on Friday that his declaration will be challenged in the courts and that the case would likely wind up at the Supreme Court, where he predicted victory. But experts have noted the legal process could take a long time, and there’s a likelihood any wall construction would be put on hold until the court case was concluded.

5. Have other presidents used the power?

Yes, many times. Since the 1976 law was enacted, presidents declared national emergencies 58 times, but never to fund a stalled policy goal. Republicans and Democrats say doing so could lead down a slippery slope.

6. Has Trump?

Yes, three times. He most recently used the National Emergencies Act in November of last year to slap sanctions on high-ranking members of the Nicaraguan government. Trump also signed an order in 2017 targeting 13 foreign nationals accused of human rights abuses and corruption, and another last year authorizing sanctions against foreign nationals who have engaged in interference in U.S. elections.

7. Has a president ever been blocked?

Yes, but not in decades. President Harry Truman tried to use emergency powers to nationalize the steel industry during the Korean War in 1952 over objections from Congress. Truman maintained that “the president has the power to keep the country from going to hell.” The bid was blocked by the Supreme Court, which found in a 6-3 ruling that Truman had exceeded his authority.

President Truman responds as he is greeted by an estimated 30,000 persons in Cleveland’s Public Square, Oct. 9, 1952.Bettmann Archive file

8. Are other emergencies in effect?

Thirty-one national emergencies are still ongoing, with the longest-running one involving sanctions on Iran in 1979 over the hostage crisis, according to the Brennan Center. Other ongoing presidential emergencies include one from Bill Clinton in 1995 “prohibiting transactions with terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process,” and George W. Bush’s broader post-9/11 order authorizing the government to impede terrorist funding.

The president needs to renew national emergencies annually.

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Trump’s declaring a national emergency to get his wall. He’s forcing a constitutional crisis.



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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — Congress knew President Donald Trump thought there was a border crisis when it voted to curb his wall Thursday.

In the arcane language of House and Senate appropriators, endorsed by veto-proof majorities in both chambers, lawmakers said Trump could have no more than $1.375 billion to build 55 new miles of steel fencing. They specifically cited the risk to law enforcement in banning him from constructing solid walls.

It was a resounding and explicit rejection of the idea that there is a national emergency requiring billions of dollars to build a border wall. And that judgment was rendered at a time when Trump has been making a very public case — in speeches, interviews and tweets — that there is a “humanitarian and security crisis” and after he shut down the government for 35 days to make his point.

This is not a case in which an act of God or war struck when Congress was dormant; lawmakers reacted — just not in the way the president had hoped.

Put simply, Congress heard Trump’s plea for emergency funding and used its primary authority under the Constitution — the power of the purse — to say no.

That’s not an answer Trump likes to hear. So he’s not taking it.

Instead, he announced a national emergency Friday morning that would allow him to draw $8 billion from the just-passed bill and other existing federal accounts to build the wall anyway, according to an administration official. Lawsuits will ensue, and the courts will have to decide whether and how to intervene in a power struggle between the other two branches.

Whatever the case at the border, there’s now a clear constitutional crisis that will bolster the power of either Congress or the president.

It’s an outcome that many lawmakers — both supporters and opponents of the president — had hoped to avoid.

“I don’t want to see him do that, but it is sad that he is in the position of even having to do that and he would not need to do that had Congress simply done their job and funded the government and funded the wall,” Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said before the president’s decision had been confirmed. “Blame Congress.”

Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., a former secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, said it would be improper for Trump to take money intended for other purposes and shift it to building a wall.

“That’s why there’s going to be a legal challenge,” she said. “I hope he doesn’t do that.”

Many Republicans, particularly establishment conservatives, have said in recent weeks that it’s a bad idea for Trump to use executive powers to circumvent Congress. They envision a Democratic president tapping emergency powers and federal accounts to address liberal wish lists in the future.

But on Thursday, it wasn’t that hard to find Republicans on Capitol Hill who were fully behind Trump.

“If we have a national emergency issue, which we have — we have a crisis going on on the border — then I support his ability to do what he needs to at that point,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla.

Democrats said there was no crisis, other than the political box Trump built for himself by promising his base that he would build the wall in the first place.

“This is a fake emergency,” said Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas. “In the past, presidents have called national emergencies over national security issues or disasters.”

Castro said that he is prepared to introduce a measure that would terminate Trump’s emergency declaration, which could get a vote in the House but might not see floor action in the Republican-controlled Senate.

If the House passes a joint resolution terminating a national emergency, the Senate must either take up the resolution within 18 days, or vote not to consider it within that timeframe.

In order to stop the process he launched Friday, the president would have to sign a termination measure, or it would have to get a two-thirds majority over his veto.

“I don’t believe he would have the support in the Senate — if they’re required to vote,” Castro said.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, suggested the same in criticizing the impending move by Trump.

“I think it’s a dangerous step,” he said. “One, because of the precedent it sets. Two, because the president is going to get sued and it won’t succeed in accomplishing his goal, and three, because I think [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi will then introduce a resolution which will pass the House, then come over here and divide Republicans. So to me, it strikes me as not a good strategy.”

In theory, Congress could have gone further to stop Trump from building a wall. The new bill could have included a “none-of-the-funds” provision prohibiting him from using any federal money to build a barrier along the border. But a provision like that would surely have drawn a veto — if it didn’t sink the bill in the Senate — and possibly forced another government shutdown.

Given its strong desire to avoid that, Congress spoke as forcefully as it could to pre-empt Trump’s emergency declaration.

Now, the courts will decide who really has the power over the wall.

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