Executive Orders: How Do They Affect Our Country?
“Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.”
–Clinton presidential aide Paul Begala, July 1998
“All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”
–Article 1, U.S. Constitution, 1789
Executive Orders are a presidential policy directive that implements or interprets a federal statute, a constitutional provision, or a treaty. Congressional approval is not necessary for an Executive Order to go into effect. Until recently, they were primarily used to direct the internal operations of federal agencies as well as being related to everyday administrative duties. They are the way a President assigns special days for particular actions, such as the National Day of Prayer. One Executive Order can be used to revoke the Executive Orders of other Presidents, or one of the currant president’s EOs. Now, they are primarily used to enforce legislative policies and programs. Some EOs are hidden from public view as they are related to United States security issues.
A TOUCH OF HISTORY
George Washington issued the first Executive Orders in 1789 using the Constitution as his authority to do so: Article II, Section 1 and Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution. Some people point to Article II, Section 2 also, though this section deals mainly with the President as Commander in Chief.
In 1788, James Madison, in Federalist 47 argued that Montesquieu’s warning, “There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body of magistrates”-did not apply to our Constitution because “the magistrate in whom the whole executive power resides cannot of himself make a law…”
In 1792 Thomas Jefferson, in conversation with George Washington, said “…if the equilibrium of the three great bodies, Legislative, Executive and Judiciary, could be preserved, if the Legislature could be kept independent, I should never fear the result of such a government; but that I could not but be uneasy when I saw that the Executive had swallowed up the Legislative Branch.”
Every President of the United States of America has used Executive Orders. In 1907, Executive Orders were given official numbers by the State Department. These were retroactively numbered from 1862 when Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and issued the Emancipation Proclamation by EO. Many EOs were lost and therefore, are not available. There are over 13,000 Executive Orders recorded and they are listed at several sites online.
EXECUTIVE ORDERS TODAY
We live in a post-constitutional age wherein the Federal Government has a rule for every area of our lives. Gardens, helmets, seat belts, food handling, all these are under the microscope of one federal agency or another and the list goes on and on.
The present occupant of the White House continues to dump on the American people regulations and laws which have not originated in, and therefore, have not been approved by Congress. To date, he has written 91 Executive Orders.
I don’t know if this is an excessive number or not. Many Executive Orders were written by FDR during his 16 year “dictatorship” and it would be unfair to compare numbers of EOs with other Presidents as situations and national, as well as foreign concerns, change.
Some of Obama’s EOs are innocuous or helpful and others are draconian. For instance, the EO “Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging While Driving” is directed to all Federal Agency employees to stop a dangerous habit.
Another of his EOs, “Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells,” revokes the EO of George W. Bush which limited Federal funding of stem cell Research. It also revoked another EO of G.W. Bush which expanded approved stem cell research in an ethically responsible way. By removing this guideline for researchers, Obama may have unleashed usage of stem cells in dangerous as well as medically unethical methods. This may not affect us directly, but it does affect how researchers may discover medical procedures. The question this EO raises is, “What are the medical ethics that will be used?” Will Peter Singer’s ethics of death be used or will more life oriented ethics be applied to research? Obama sides with Singer and other bioethicists in agreeing that children born of botched abortions should be left to die. He even blocked passage of an Illinois bill to protect these children and give them treatment. When he left the Illinois Senate, the bill finally passed.
At this time, there is rumor of an Executive Order to be penned which will limit gun sales on the American/Mexican border. I cannot find a recent EO that addresses this subject; however, it has been reported at The Blaze.com and at The Daily Beast.com. that an EO is forthcoming. This comes after the discovery of our Justice Department and BATF being involved in a gun smuggling ring from Arizona to the drug lords of Mexico. Senator Daniel Issa thinks this is a political move to deflect attention from Operation Fast and Furious which is clearly unlawful. Attorney General Mr. Holder has written a memo to ATF ordering them to “interdict all weapons and pursue straw-buyers.” (A straw-buyer is one who purchases something for another person who wishes to remain anonymous.) Some believe that the attempted assassination of Gabby Gifford spurred this EO as well as reaction to the news of Fast and Furious being investigated. It is a chink in the already vulnerable 2nd Amendment, and is part of the statist agenda of firearm confiscation.
There is an EO concerning NASA’s new directive. But it’s not listed in the Official White House Site of Executive Orders. It was written on April 15, 2010. We know that their new directive is aimed at helping Islamic nations with their efforts at space travel as well as assisting NOAA with garnering proof of Global Warming. There are to be no more Shuttle Missions; we will buy space for our astronauts on Russian vehicles going to the Space Station at an astronomical cost to the taxpayers of our country. The elimination of NASA from space exploration is tantamount to cutting off scientific discoveries which filter down to the common man for use: case in point, Velcro. It also removes the United States from any efforts to set up bases on the moon which could be used to observe the changing panorama of the universe as well as to watch activities on the earth which could endanger our national security. Recently, he announced that he wanted NASA to put together an initiative for a manned landing on Mars.
“While committed to terminating the Bush administration’s Constellation moon program, the president supports development of a scaled-down version of Constellation’s Orion crew capsule for use as a space station emergency escape vehicle and possible technology test bed. Speaking on background, a senior administration official said Tuesday the Orion capsule could be launched unmanned to the International Space Station using commercial rockets as part of a broad effort to reduce reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The official said the use of a scaled-down version of Orion, along with the development of new private-sector rockets and capsules to replace the shuttle, would end NASA’s reliance on Russia for space transportation services sooner than would have been possible with the Constellation program’s Ares rockets. While no timetable for such flights will be specified, a decision on what sort of heavy lift rocket architecture to pursue will be made in 2015, based in part on advanced technologies research that will be funded at more than $3 billion over the next five years. ” – April 10, 2010, five days before the NASA EO was written. source: CBS News Tech
Along with these provisions for the Mars mission, NASA will have to share its technological information with Muslim countries. Right now, Iran has a nuclear weapon and silos in Venezuela. This doesn’t make me feel safe since those silos have missiles that are pointed at the United States. The EO doesn’t provide for sharing information with Iran, but what’s to stop the countries that are getting the briefings from sharing it with Iran?
Mr. Obama wants to push the Dream Act, which makes all the illegals in this country citizens, by virtue of the Executive Order. Of course, he wants them to vote for the Democratic Party.
What else do EOs mean to us? As evidenced by Lincoln’s declaration of Martial Law and the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the same thing could be done by Obama if there is a National Emergency, which of course, he would declare. Many political and legal writers as well as political pundits have expressed the opinion that EOs could be used to set up a dictatorship.
Is Obama a power hungry man, or will he go quietly into the night when his Presidency is over? Only the 2012 election stands between the United States as a Constitutional Republic and a progression into a Socialistic European style country.
Which way will the nation choose to go?
Nicely written… Obama with Executive Order Authority is something that should disturb everyone,, He doesn’t believe in the Constitution, His Cabinet heads routinely write regulation to bypass Congress, and it doesn’t seem to bother them if the regulations happen to run contrary to the Constitution.. The House might need to set up some extra staff to review his executive orders, and the any new regulations coming out of this Administration.. If they spot something not right the House , then Congress would be in a position to strongly advise the President the rule won’t fly. and what the repercussions will be if he persists.
According to the Federal Register, 13,581 EO’s have been signed since George Washington. The most by a single president was 3,466 during FDR’s 12 year presidency. Compared to 380 signed by Ronald Reagan over an 8 year period.
Another interesting way to look at the number of EO’s since president Hoover (past 82 years);
Democrats (42 years): Signed 5,669
Republicans: (40 years): Signed 2,824
Average (not including FDR’s number or Hoovers 995): 336 per president, or 61 per year.
From that, I would deduce Obama has quite a bit of catching up to do. He is sitting at half the average.
As for the nature of EO’s, they probably have changed. But I don’t think this article makes a good argument against the need for this executive authority. President Lincoln suspended many fundamental rights out of necessity. If your argument is, well Lincoln was fighting a civil war, as opposed to abusing EO’s to push a political ideology… perhaps all EO’s should therefore be rescinded.
Federal Register: https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/disposition.html
Thanks for the feedback, I do appreciate it. The intention of the article was not to make an argument against EOs. I have no desire to get rid of them as they do have a purpose. What I was aiming at is the mis-use of the function, I think if anyone is capable of it, Obama is.
And if Lincoln mis-used them, history has forgiven him for it. I was using his EO as an example of what could happen in the wrong hands.
Your stats are very interesting and informative. Thanks for that!
Yes, Obama is definitely capable of misusing it. Hopefully we have the right people in the right places to cry foul when he does. I also heard about the elusive NASA EO. I can’t find it. So I wonder if it’s buried in another EO? When the NASA director spilled the beans on Obama for saying he wanted NASA to focus on Muslim countries… I about died. Who does that? Certainly not the president of the free world.
Thanks for the very insightful article. It should serve as a warning for us to keep our radars active.
I hunted for that EO high and low, but could not find it buried in any other EO near that time frame. It may be in one of them that’s close to the date that it was issued. Due to time restraints, I had to quit searching and so, I left the article where it was. At least I knew the date it was issued.
NASA is more than important to space travel, it is the only means we have to defend ourselves from attacks from “the high ground.” And it’s a travesty that the Muslim countries will be allowed to know many of our secrets.
I don’t trust Obama as far as I can throw him, and I can’t throw him at all!
Thanks for the compliment on the article. And my radar is on high alert! I only pray that this country wakes up in time to stop his journey to socialism.
It is a fact that EOs do not require any congressional approval to take effect even though they have the same legal impact as laws codified by Congress. Article II, Section 1 of our Constitution grants to the President the “executive Power.” Section 3 of Article II further directs the President to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” It is believed by many that EOs were constitutionally authorized so as not to hamstring the President to act in times of emergency. Acknowledging that, they have not been truly tested at the Supreme Court level. The most significant reversl was, by my recall, of Harry Truman’s taking over of the steel mills. That established a limited precedent that the Executive had no business using it’s power of an XO to impose a labor settlement upon an industry by seizingh ctrol of said industry. In pragmatic legislative reality an XO can be reversed by congress if they have the 2/3rds vote needed to override a presidential veto.
Thanks for your reply. I appreciate feedback. I really don’t know about Truman’s actions as I didn”t concentrate on anyone’s XOs but Obama’s, and of course, the brief history and the constitutional justification for XOs. I do appreciate your pointing out how to overcome an XO that is unconstitutional in addition to the way that my research turned up, and that was congress going to SCOTUS.
What I fear the most is Obama using a “crisis” to issue an XO for martial law and to suspend the elections. I’d not put anything past this man.
Once again, thanks for the feedback, and keep on reading! I enjoy people who point out things that I’ve not covered in my articles.
A fellow much wiser than I made this cogent observation:
The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.”.
The founders gave We the People a wonderful guide for Freedom for the future. It’s strength is that it is ONLY a guide and seeks to impose the collective responsibility for interpretation upon future generations if they but hold true to an “original intent” interpretation and the foundational firmament they intended. One must remember that our Constitution was a very early formative document intented to provide one thing above all. The preservation of the integrity of the Union of the Several States for the future to this Great Experiment. Thus, it was to be a compromise result of different regional opinions, as Washington took specific note of that in his Letter of Transmittal for our Constitution to Congress. That document is not covered in American history in our schools, because we’ve allowed the “progressives” to gain a slow and distinct foothold in our educational system. And so this Septembet 17th, in collective ignorance, the Two Hundred and Twenty Fourth anniversary of that very brief yet significant letter will pass unnoticed. Too bad!
Your comments about the Constitution are right on the money! One of the things I have a huge problem with is the addition of several amendments that are not in the spirit of the original intent of this glorious document. I really do believe there was Divine Providence present when the Founders were writing this guideline to freedom.
I don’t know who the wise man is that wrote the information you presented, but he was indeed, correct.
That would be Albert Einstein as to the quote itself. He was an interesting fellow and unlike other contemporary geniuses he had a broad perspective of interests in life and commented frequently upon such.
As to Divine Providence I cannot speak to that with any authority of course, but I can say that based upon all I’ve read that the unifying spirit and tone was struck by part of the comments made by Washington in that Letter of Transmittal(1) I refereenced. Midway through he opined that…”It is obviously impractical in the federal government of these states, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all: Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstances, as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved; and on the present occasion this difficulty was encreased by a difference among the several states as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular interests.” To translate one may observe that individual sovereignity or right to do as you will cannot be the standard for unifying all peoples. He states that as an obvious fact at the outset Then he goes about noting how if a society is to function and grow individuals must yield a mesure of ppersonal freedom for the betterment of the Union as a whole. Then he acknowledges the difficulties they had with differing states and differing values, but they ALL persevered and agreed to sacrifice personal interests to some degree so that the Union of Several States would endure. This is not a compromise, It is a statement of high principle. LIberals despise this atttude of conciliation for the betterment of the group and strident yelp about “individual” rights as their standard, but in true liberal hypocrisy do not apply them to all peoples equally. There is much to do to reverse the damage they have done.
Without getting into a prtracted off-tpic discussion on the amendments to the Constitution one thing is true. The greatest corruption to the original intent and strict constructionst’s view is how the Court of Nine has gone way beyond original intent in expanding the meaning of “implied” powers. When the Constitution was constructed “implied” powers were those powers necessary to bring “granted” or “enumerated” powers to being. The term that we’ve all become familiar with, “legislating from the bench” addresses this judicial perversion of original intent and so we have liberal justices in the last 50 years or so, effectively writing social policy by how they rule on certain cases in law. It may also be fairly observed that they have imposed their will upon the states where the founders never intended it to be. In my opinion, the net result of all this is that it has created a generational dependency upon the national government of EXPECTATION by the people. Over the years a subtle, but well-defined abrogation of “personal responsibility” of the individual for the consequences of their actions or lack thereof, has been replaced by their identification as victims of circumstance with a righteous attitude of EXPECTATION that the GOVERNMENT should bail them out of their misery. In this manner the radical, usurper element have precisely what they want. A flock of parasitically dependent “sheeple” who will bray loudly when cued to and sit silently when told to.
Having been spoiled to having THEIR way ALL the time though, they cannot sit silent and get emotionally agitated at even their Great Leader when they perceive just one instance when he appears to be going against their will. It’s like a three-ring circus of clowns falling over each other and running around in circles to behold, as differing leftist elements vent their emotional bile.
I’m well into my 70s now, so have the broad expanse and perspective of longer life experience to appreciate and take note of all these changes. Young people today do not. What we of my era caled “traditional American values” are unknown and alien to them. It’s why they are so easily led and why it was so easy to prop up the Oba-emperor with no clothes, The Empty Suit, for them to adore.
I like your name! Sometimes I feel that way. Thanks for your feedback and comments. You pinpointed why I wrote that article. I don’t like the fact that the Alphabet Soup Agencies can make what amounts to law by writing a memo about restrictions and regulations. I think they should have to run those memos by Congress before they are approved for issue.
And your suggestion about setting up a special review of Obama’s EOs is an excellent idea!
Thanks again for the astutte nailing of the article!
Once more, you have stated essential truths about what is going on in this country. I’m not as old as you, but I am into my 60’s. I have seen the demise of this country since I was 15 years old. I always hoped I’d not live to see it.
I don’t know where to start to reply to your astute comments. Washington, and the other Founders were extremely intelligent, well educated men. Today, we don’t teach critical thinking to our children. The “socialization” of our schools began in the mid 1800’s as German and Prussian philosophers came to America to escape the censoring of their works in Europe. Most of these philosophers were collectivists who thought that the state was more important than the individual. This filters down into the general population, and we can see where it has gotten us today. The left taking over the country has been a gradual process, one Jefferson and Washington were well aware could happen. de Toqueville as well warned Americans of the danger of collectivism taking over this country.
Stacking the courts, infiltrating our work force, reforming our educational system, creating agencies that take our personal freedoms; all of these, and more have taken our rights away from us. The left has had more than 50 years to do this incrementally. As F.A. Hayak said, what one generation balked at the next generation accepts. Cass Sunstein wrote a book called NUDGE where he explains how to incrementally take over people’s personal choices by governmental mandates. We will be told what to eat, where to eat it, and how often to eat it soon enough.
What we see going on in England right now is a result of the EXPECTATION of the people for the government to take care of them. Yet they are destroying the very means that the governement has to take care of them: businessses that pay taxes. Countries cutting back on their hand outs and the “needy” not understanding how the system works, has contributed to the riots that are taking over Europe now. And I believe they will happen here as well. We have become a society of instant gratification, and this will be a contributing factor to riots in this country that Wisconsin foreshadowed.
Yes, it’s going to take more time than you or I will see to undo the damage that has been done. And perhaps, the country will go through this again. I only hope that there are enough people brave enough to continue to speak the message of our Founders, Freedom is not Free.