Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-09) introduced a bill to terminate the decade-old national emergency over Libya.
Former President Barack Obama instituted the national emergency in February 2011. Gosar pointed out that despite periodic congressional reviews of presidents’ national emergencies every six months, the Libyan declaration hadn’t been reviewed.
“The people of Libya deserve to live in a manner of their choosing without the prospect of U.S. bombings, attacks, or color revolutions thrust upon them by corrupt and misguided American agencies – none of whom are acting with Congressional approval,” said Gosar. “The true situation is that no group or person in Libya currently poses a threat to our national security. Furthermore, even if there was some hostility, none of it rises to the level of an ‘unusual and extraordinary threat to national security and foreign policy.’”
Under Obama’s executive order declaring the emergency, all ties were cut with senior officials and political leaders of the Libyan government, especially allies and family of former Colonel Muammar Qadhafi (Gaddafi).
Gaddafi was assassinated eight months after the emergency declaration. Yet, Gosar pointed out that the continued extension of Obama’s order cited Gaddafi as a reason for the necessity of the declaration.
“Almost hilariously, the extended national emergency related to Libya continues to cite Muammar Qadhafi as the reason for the declaration, even though Qadhafi has been dead for almost 12 years,” said Gosar. “You can’t make this stuff up.”
Gaddafi ruled over Libya for over 40 years, abolishing the monarchy and establishing an authoritarian regime enforced by a police state. Gaddafi immediately began insulating the country from outside influences, shutting down British and American military bases. He then launched a cultural revolution in the 1970s that did away with existing laws, communism, conservatism, fascism, atheism, capitalism, and the Muslim Brotherhood; armed citizens; and established an Islamic state.
Gaddafi’s end came through the Arab Spring color revolution that arose in 2010 throughout Asia and Africa, affecting Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain in addition to Libya.
At the time, Hillary Clinton served as the secretary of state. A year after Gaddafi’s assassination, on Sept. 11, the Benghazi terror attack occurred. Clinton took responsibility a month after the attacks. There remains controversy over whether Clinton gave the “stand-down order” to withhold a Special Operations team from Benghazi.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reports that the U.S. government has invested over $900 million in development, security, and humanitarian assistance in Libya. From 2019 to 2024, the USAID will spend over $23.3 million to establish economic stability in Libya.
According to the latest installment of the World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers (WMEAT), the U.S. military and armed forces expenditures from 2012 to 2019 totaled $520 billion (based on market exchange rate conversion with a base year of 2019). However, these totals may be completely inaccurate: the WMEAT data discloses that these totals were “extremely uncertain.”
The Biden administration ended WMEAT last year. The transparency practice had been in place since 1974.
Three years and some change later, President Joe Biden signed Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-AZ-09) bill to end the national COVID-19 emergency. Biden signed Gosar’s resolution, HJR 7, on Monday.
In addition to the national emergency that Gosar’s resolution terminated, there’s another declared emergency in play concerning COVID-19: the public health emergency declared in January 2020 by Health and Human Services (HHS), which impacts the ability of the federal government to use Title 42 for expedited illegal immigrant expulsion. The Biden administration said that it would end the public health emergency, which allows Title 42 to take place, on May 11.
There was also the emergency declared by former President Donald Trump via the Stafford Act. That declaration enabled Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance for 75 percent federal matching on disaster-related costs, like law enforcement and state emergency operation centers.
An end to the national emergency per Gosar’s resolution would have lifted the pause on student loan repayments — however, the Biden administration announced its student loan forgiveness program last August to work around the end of the emergency. That program is being considered currently before the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Repayments are scheduled to resume either 60 days after the SCOTUS ruling or after June 30.
The end of the national emergency also means federal agencies will return to regular protocols, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s COVID-19 mortgage forbearance program ceasing by the end of May.
The lift of the emergency will also tighten up rules on Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP programs, impacting eligibility, as well as waivers for alternative provider settings, or for forgoing application fees or criminal background checks. It will also cease the provision of free COVID-19 rapid tests, and allow states to cease COVID-19 data tracking.
Gosar’s resolution passed the Senate last month with bipartisan support, including both Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema. Only two Arizona representatives opposed the resolution during House consideration in February: Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-07) and Greg Stanton (D-AZ-04).
Leading up to Biden signing the resolution, some Democratic leaders expressed frustration with a perceived lack of communication from the White House. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI-08) reported that the Biden administration hasn’t communicated with House Democrats.
“The White House’s lack of communication with House Democrats has been frustrating,” said Kildee. “Going forward, we’re going to need greater clarity out of the administration. They’ve got to do better.”
Biden voiced opposition to the resolution leading up to and after the Senate’s passage of Gosar’s resolution. Despite his opposition, a White House spokesperson told media outlets that the president would sign the resolution.
“The President strongly opposes HJ Res 7, and the administration is planning to wind down the COVID national emergency and public health emergency on May 11,” said the spokesperson. “If this bill comes to his desk, however, he will sign it, and the administration will continue working with agencies to wind down the national emergency with as much notice as possible to Americans who could potentially be impacted.”
A new law will take effect in Arizona this summer to prevent state officials from shutting down churches or religious services during a public health or public safety emergency.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2507 on Monday, defining a religious service as an essential service during a declared state of emergency. The legislation also protects the fundamental right of Arizonans to exercise their religion freely during a time of crisis and further protects a religious organization from discrimination when it operates or seeks to operate during a state of emergency.
HB2507, which was sponsored by House Republican Majority Leader Ben Toma, notes the U.S. Constriction expressly protects the free exercise of religion, including the right to hold beliefs inwardly and secretly as well as the right “to act on those beliefs outwardly and publicly.”
Toma, who received bipartisan support for HB2507 in the House, said he introduced the bill to ensure Arizonans’ religious freedoms are forever protected.
“During the pandemic, while Arizona was blessed with government leaders that respected religious freedom and the essential role of religious organizations to the people, that wasn’t the situation in some neighboring states,” Toma said. “This law ensures that religious freedom and services in Arizona will continue to be protected in the future, regardless of any emergency, or who leads the state.”
Rep. Lupe Diaz, himself a pastor, said religion is an essential service and religious freedom is essential, which was especially true during the pandemic when Arizonans were facing so many challenges.
“As we look at being able to exercise our religious liberties, which is a constitutional right, it is amazing that we can be denied gathering at churches, yet have stadiums, malls and box stores open,” Diaz said last week in explaining his vote for HB2507.
Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, also applauded the signing of HB2507 into law. She noted that while public officials have the authority to protect health and public safety, they cannot suspend the First Amendment, including the free exercise of religion.
“By signing HB 2507 the Governor acknowledges the fact that religious organizations provide essential services that are vital to the health and welfare of the public,” Herrod said Monday. “They not only meet the spiritual needs of our communities, but they also support social services, health care, and economic activity.”
CORRECTION: The bill still needs to be considered in the Senate. The “win” is confined only to the House vote as of 9:30 a.m., on June 29.
Back in January, on the second day of the legislative session, Sen. Warren Petersen and 27 other legislators introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 1003 in hopes of garnering voter support to rein in a governor’s emergency powers.
It took more than five months, but the effort by Petersen (R-LD23) and the co-sponsors of SCR1003 paid off last week. The result – voters will decide in November 2022 whether to approve a constitutional amendment that ensures the legislature has a say after a governor issues a state of emergency.
A governor currently has power to declare a state of emergency for conditions of “disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons or property within the state caused by air pollution, fire, flood, epidemic, riot, earthquake or other causes that are likely to be beyond the control of any single county or municipality.” Such a declaration is only terminated by proclamation of the governor or a concurrent resolution of the legislature.
The legislature, however, might not be in session when a state of emergency is issued.
SCR1003 would constitutionally require a governor to call the legislature into special session within 10 days of proclaiming a state of emergency. And once assembled, the legislature could determine whether to enact laws or issue legislative orders to terminate or modify the governor’s emergency powers as well as the state of emergency.
Those legislative orders would have the same authority as a governor’s executive orders, according to a provision of SCR1003. Another provision addresses a concern raised during the COVID-19 lockdowns – how to conduct legislative business if lawmakers cannot make it to the floor of their chambers.
Remote voting is currently allowed but the head count conducted for determining a quorum is based on those legislators present in the building. But if SCR1003 is approved by voters, quorums could be counted based on remote-attendance by a lawmaker under certain situations.
That would ensure the legislature can do its constitutionally-mandated duties even if several members are not in the building.
One of the most impassioned SCR1003 floor speeches came from Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-LD12) who advocated during voting on June 25 not only in support of the concurrent resolution but also to end of the COVID-19 public health emergency Gov. Doug Ducey declared more than 15 months ago.
According to Hoffman, Arizona’s state of emergency statutes permit “the most draconian measures out of all the states except for one. That is abhorrent. That is terrible.” He added that current laws allows emergency powers which are “unchecked and out of control.”
SCR1003, Hoffman said, “is measured, it is reasonable, it does not overreach, and it does not eliminate the ability for emergency orders and emergency declaration.”
He also called on Ducey to put on end to Arizona’s COVID-19 public health emergency. “It is time for this emergency order to end, period, stop all. End of story, turn it off,” Hoffman said.
But legislators did more last week that just ensure SCR1003 gets before voters next year.
The House and Senate also passed SB1819 which includes a provision that ends a governor’s public health state of emergency after 120 days unless extended in whole or in part by concurrent resolution of the legislature. That provision of the bill will not apply to a state of emergency issued before Jan. 1, 2023.
Petersen, the bill’s prime sponsor, told AZ Free News both SCR1003 and SB1819 are important given Arizona’s rating as second worst in the nation for the balance of powers between the executive and the legislative branches when it comes to emergency orders.
“SCR1003 and SB1819 are needed to bring Arizona into balance like the rest of the nation,” Petersen explained. “The measure that goes to the voters is important because it brings the legislature into session to consider any emergency orders issued. Meanwhile, SB1819 that we passed is important because it terminates those orders after four months.”
The two measures work hand in hand, Petersen noted.
“One makes sure the legislature has a voice in emergency orders from the start. The second makes sure that they don’t last forever,” he said.