Recently I was working out at the gym and heard a lively discussion with regard to certain executive orders coming out of the Oval Office. What exactly are we talking about when we use the term? According to www.whitehouse.gov, executive orders are orders issued by US Presidents and directed towards officers and agencies of the Federal government. Executive orders have the full force of law when they are based on authority from a statute or law or from the Constitution itself.
President Donald Trump has made use of the Executive Order Privilege 23 times since being sworn in on January 20th. He has also had a couple of his executive orders halted by the courts. What is the process by which this occurs?
Like both legislative statutes and regulations circulated by government agencies, executive orders are subject to judicial review and can be overturned if the orders lack the backing of a law or the Constitution.
Major policy initiatives require approval by the legislative branch, but executive orders have significant influence over the affairs of government. They can decide how, and to what degree, laws will be enforced. Executive orders can deal with emergencies, wage wars, and in general, fine-tune policy choices in the enactment of broad statutes.
All presidents, with the exception of William Henry Harrison, have issued executive orders. Franklin Delano Roosevelt holds the record at 3,721, and next to Harrison, the fewest orders were issued by John Adams, James Madison, and James Monroe. Each of them made only one. Probably the most famous executive order was President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued January 1, 1863. Executive orders were not numbered until 1907 when the Department of State decided to declare Executive Order #1 – Lincoln’s executive order to establish a Provisional Court in Louisiana on October 20, 1862. They numbered the orders retroactively from this first order.
Not all executive orders are accepted or uncontested. Recently Trump’s Travel Ban Executive Order was suspended by the courts. In 1935, the Supreme Court overturned five of President Franklin Roosevelt's executive orders (6199, 6204, 6256, 6284, 6855). Executive Order 12954, issued by President Bill Clinton in 1995, attempted to prevent the federal government from contracting with organizations that had strike-breakers on the payroll; a federal appeals court ruled that the order conflicted with the National Labor Relations Act, and invalidated the order.
Congress also has the power to overturn an executive order by passing legislation that invalidates it. Congress can also refuse to provide funding necessary to carry out certain policy measures contained within the order or to legitimize policy mechanisms.
Our three branches of government perform checks and balances so that one branch does not become more powerful that another. Congress or the Supreme Court can stop an executive order. The President can veto a law or the Court can invalidate a law passed by Congress.
If you want to know more about executive orders recently enacted, you can go to www.whitehouse.gov for a complete list of President Trump’s actions. The site also has information about other presidents, first ladies, and cabinet members. Most of the information in this article was taken from that website.
By: Wanda Campbell
Center for Lifelong Learning - 121 South Marion Street, Athens, AL 35611 - 256-233-8262