Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Executive Orders

Presidential Executive Orders - What are they anyway?

A Presidential Executive Order is not a carte blanche dicatorial edict, and it is NOT a means to enact legislation or replace Congressional powers.

From the Federal Register
Executive orders are official documents, numbered consecutively, through which the President of the United States manages the operations of the Federal Government.

The text of Executive orders appears in the daily Federal Register as each Executive order is signed by the President and received by the Office of the Federal Register. The text of Executive orders beginning with Executive Order 7316 of March 13, 1936, also appears in the sequential editions of Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

NOTE: The total number of Executive orders issued for each administration includes number-and-letter designated orders, such as 9577-A, 9616-A, etc.
So it's an administrative order which manages the people who work for the federal government - it can be as simple as telling everyone who works for the federal government that they can not use a cell phone when they are driving on official business.... or setting the rates of pay for federal employees .... or setting the organization reporting structure within an agency.

Executive orders are not meant to be used to make law!

There is a a Constitutional procedure regarding law making - and that involves your representatives in Congress.

Have presidents misused the power of executive orders?
You bet!

Barack Obama has put out about 89 Executive Orders since taking office in 2008! (Numbers 13489-13578) also has some good explanation about what executive orders are:

Executive Orders (EOs) are legally binding orders given by the President, acting as the head of the Executive Branch, to Federal Administrative Agencies. Executive Orders are generally used to direct federal agencies and officials in their execution of congressionally established laws or policies. However, in many instances they have been used to guide agencies in directions contrary to congressional intent.

Not all EOs are created equal. Proclamations, for example, are a special type of Executive Order that are generally ceremonial or symbolic, such as when the President declares National Take Your Child To Work Day. Another subset of Executive Orders are those concerned with national security or defense issues. These have generally been known as National Security Directives. Under the Clinton Administration, they have been termed "Presidential Decision Directives."

Executive Orders do not require Congressional approval to take effect but they have the same legal weight as laws passed by Congress. The President's source of authority to issue Executive Orders can be found in the Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution which 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." To implement or execute the laws of the land, Presidents give direction and guidance to Executive Branch agencies and departments, often in the form of Executive Orders.
Of course if congress does not like the administrative dictates they can override them and they can even be challenged in court. There are checks and balances which are to prevent the president from becoming a dictator via Executive Order.
If Congress does not like what the executive branch is doing, it has two main options. First, it may rewrite or amend a previous law, or spell it out in greater detail how the Executive Branch must act. Of course, the President has the right to veto the bill if he disagrees with it, so, in practice, a 2/3 majority if often required to override an Executive Order.

Congress is less likely to challenge EOs that deal with foreign policy, national defense, or the implementation and negotiation of treaties, as these are powers granted largely to the President by the Constitution. As the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the President is also considered the nation's "Chief Diplomat." In fact, given national security concerns, some defense or security related EOs (often called National Security Directives or Presidential Decision Directives) are not made public.

In addition to congressional recourse, Executive Orders can be challenged in court, usually on the grounds that the Order deviates from "congressional intent" or exceeds the President's constitutional powers. In one such notable instance, President Harry Truman, was rebuked by the Supreme Court for overstepping the bounds of presidential authority. After World War II, Truman seized control of steel mills across the nation in an effort to settle labor disputes. In response to a challenge of this action, the Supreme Court ruled that the seizure was unconstitutional and exceeded presidential powers because neither the Constitution or any statute authorized the President to seize private businesses to settle labor disputes. For the most part, however, the Court has been fairly tolerant of wide range of executive actions.
Two good resources regarding misuse of executive orders are:

It might be a good idea for Americans to look through the list of Executive Orders which have come out of the Obama administration - there have been some pretty troubling ones if you ask me! One such EO was the one establishing the "White House Rural Council" especially in light of the very disturbing Agenda 21.