tl;dr: Other than the power to declare war, are any of the powers afforded the U.S. president limited as to how long the action is effective?

When I was in school (late 90's, US mid-Atlantic region), we were taught that the government had a separation of powers, and the President had unilateral permission do perform certain actions, such as declare war, but these actions were checked by a 30- or 60-day time limit, after which a supporting action had to be ratified by (eg) Congress in order for this action to remain in effect.

So, for example, the president could declare war, and it would be "good" for 30 days, but if Congress didn't agree and ratify an equivalent declaration of war, it would be moot. So, for example, if a President declared war on Canada, and within 30 days Congress didn't say "yes, we are at war with Canada", then it the declaration of war would just ... expire. My teachers weren't too clear on exactly how this worked; so pretty much my understanding was we'd all just be like "hey we're not at war any more, how about that maple syrup?"

Anyway, I've come to since realize that the right of the U.S. president to declare war unilaterally without the permissions/acceptance of Congress, with its 30-day validity, is a particular presidential power called the "war power". A president can do a lot of things other than just declare war, however. Do any of those other powers -- such as presidential proclamations and memoranda -- have time limitations present, or are they perpetually in effect until otherwise affected by or retracted by a Congressional act or another Presidential act?

I've searched for presidential proclamations and memoranda and have not been able to identify if any of them will expire naturally. There is some indication that President Bush declared a state of emergency after 9/11 which remains in effect, which would indicate that (at minimum) such proclamations do not expire when the individual leaves office.

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    Since proclamations are authorised by specific laws, any time limits would depend on the law invoked. Sep 19, 2018 at 5:43
  • I wasn't aware current laws came with expiration dates. Sep 19, 2018 at 5:44
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    Oh sorry, the styling on this site is very poor -- I couldn't tell there was a link there at all. But I explicitly called out War in my question because the declaration of war is one that does have an explicit time limit -- as defined by the War Powers Act. However that Wikipedia page does not indicate how long such an act is in effect. For example, the current travel ban on citizens of certain nations not being able to receive a visa to visit the US. That's not a condition, or recognizes an event, and instead requires obedience. How long is this good for? Until Congress says otherwise? Sep 19, 2018 at 5:49
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    I think this question is too broad. The US president has a few specific powers specified in the Constitution, and otherwise has various powers as specified by various laws, some with and some without expiration dates. The question mentions a power to declare war, which the president doesn't actually have. The president does have the power to wage war (even without declaration), and this power is (on paper) limited by the War Powers Act (though this limitation is on uncertain constitutional footing). (comment continues)
    – Deolater
    Sep 19, 2018 at 13:45
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    If the answer is no, then the answer is no -- no enumeration necessary.... I can't think of any reason why you would need to list them all out, unless the answer actually is "yes they all have limits and they're all different" (but then you could say, those limits being defined in such-and-such a place and only enumerate a few as an example.) Sep 19, 2018 at 14:05

3 Answers 3


Like I mentioned in a comment, sometimes they do have a time limit, e.g. requiring renewal. And this depends on specifics of the law authorizing such non-ceremonial proclamations. Such as

A permanent emergency: Trump becomes third president to renew extraordinary post-9/11 powers

President Trump has become the third president to renew a post-9/11 emergency proclamation, stretching what was supposed to be a temporary state of national emergency after the 2001 terror attacks into its 17th year.

Presidents Bush and Obama renewed that emergency each year. And on Wednesday, Trump published a now-routine notice in the Federal Register extending the emergency for the 16th time, explaining simply that "the terrorist threat continues." [...]

The perpetual war footing has had a striking lack of examination. Under the National Emergencies Act — a post-Watergate law intended to rein in presidential emergency powers — the president needs to renew the emergency each year or it lapses. But Congress is also supposed to review each emergency every six months. It never has.

And it's not just 9/11. Presidents have declared scores of emergencies over the past 40 years, dealing with everything from the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Swine Flu. More than 30 of those national emergencies remain in effect — and Congress has never reviewed a single one in the history of the National Emergencies Act.


Declaring war is a bit more complicated than other proclamations. Technically the President can't declare war at all, the constitution requires congress to declare war and the president to carry out that war. The War Powers Act is a fairly controversial piece of legislation, that essentially allows the president to conduct a war for up to 60 days without permission from Congress so long as they are notified that he is doing so. The controversy centers around the fact that this law essentially negates the role of congress in declaring war, there is also the argument that this is explicitly authorizing something that was informally authorized, that a president can unilaterally take military action should the need arise.

There are also executive orders which are predominately guidelines on enforcing existing laws, these have an effective limit of of a President's term. They don't officially expire unless specifically written to do so, but it is common for incoming president to nullify and create their own orders for a multitude of things. The check on executive orders is judicial review, so its possible to write orders blatantly ignoring laws and have them be in effect until a court cancels them.

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    Your 2nd paragraph kinda conflates executive orders with proclamations, which in this discussion should be avoided. According to Wikipedia "the difference between the two is that executive orders are aimed at those inside government while proclamations are aimed at those outside government". The president has more powers with respect to the former than the latter, at least as usually practiced. Sep 19, 2018 at 14:57

Presidential Proclamations (AKA Executive Orders) are usually directives issued by the President to the various (and numerous) agencies under the executive branch that give them general issues on how to operate on certain issues that may be vague in the relevant law. For example, the current classification system for the United States is an Executive Order and a rather old one at that. It exists because Congress has said that the President must protect state secrets but did not say how he should address to what extent that system of protection must look like. So, the system was implement by executive order and has largely remained the same since (there are a few amendments).

EOs do not, by nature have sunset rules written in them as most laws are written by sunset (especially ones regarding executive agencies). Without a checks and balances override, and without expressed written sunsets the EO will stay in force until the person who is President rescinds or overrides the order.

There are a lot of these and they range from declaring a one time National Day of Morning, to lowering the flag to half-staff (there are times by law it must be done like a politician's death, but the law grants the President power to lower it for events that warrant the symbolic respect). to telling immigration related agencies to operate as if a bill that had not passed into law was in force (hint: This one is probably not legal and was on its way to the Supreme Court President Trump decided to enact a sunset law to avoid having to fight for it, which he definitely did not want to do do.).

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