Presidential BFF: Executive Orders

David Hancock, Staff Writer

For a nation founded on the principles of democracy, people’s rule, and the balance of power, American presidents sure do issue a lot of executive orders.

Executive orders are rules or orders issued by a president that have the force of a law. Under the Constitution, it is the legislative branch that is supposed to create the laws and the executive branch that is supposed to enforce those laws. Politicians justify executive orders as “enforcements of the law,” but they remain a controversial topic, as many critics view them as a threat to democracy.

“I think [executive orders] are a necessary evil,” senior Michael Barber said. “We don’t want to have a king or a dictator, but sometimes things need to be done.”

Put simply: under normal circumstances, both houses of Congress and the president must approve a bill to make it a law, making an effective system of checks and balances and ensuring that every state, every party, and every voice in the nation is represented. Executive orders, however, don’t guarantee such representation; they just happen.

Executive orders are often used when a president needs something to happen fast since Congress isn’t known for solving issues with any great speed.

“[Executive] actions can expand governmental power, or they can liberalize and enhance freedom,” “Forbes” writer Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. said in his article “Obama’s Legacy: An Abundance Of Executive Actions.” “In Obama we have a president willing push boundaries on social and economic issues when it comes to legislating without Congress.”

During his presidency, Barack Obama signed a total of 277 executive orders, which is actually the least number of executive orders by a president since President William McKinley in the late 1800s. Although relatively few in number, some of Obama’s orders were highly controversial, mainly ones concerning gun control, immigration and business regulations.

Not only were many of Obama’s plans and policies controversial, but the manner in which he enforced them has also become a subject of debate.

“I believe his intentions were good,” former Bruin Voice writer Emma Garcia said in an article in February 2016. “However, the way Obama went about these changes [referring to a gun control executive order] is unacceptable. The whole point of checks and balances is to make sure no branch has too much power and President Obama’s extensive use of the Executive Order is an abuse of that philosophy.”

Many were outraged at Obama’s use of his executive power. Although executive orders are more common when the president’s party holds a majority in Congress, they are complicated because no one in Congress, Republican or Democrat, has a say in the orders the president issues. Plus, Congress can’t do much to stop an executive order since the president can veto Congress — except for when a bill has a two-thirds majority, which rarely happens. Obama was able to accomplish a lot because he didn’t go through Congress, but without the approval of Congress there is nothing to solidify his orders into law when the next president comes along.

In his inaugurate speech, Donald Trump promised to put America first by renegotiating trade deals, increasing border security, reducing government regulation, increasing industry in the U.S. and repealing and replacing Obamacare. He has since used his executive order power to fulfill each of those promises to some degree, but it is unclear if this executive order trend will continue or if Congress will become useful again under President Trump.

“In some ways I think he [Trump] will help because he has a lot of potential and made a lot of promises during his campaign he will fulfill,” senior Brian Berna said. “I don’t think he’s a liar, but it’s scary because he could backstab us at any time.”

Trump’s execute orders consist of starting plans for building the wall, stopping all new hirings for government positions besides the military, preventing excess spending on Obamacare until it is repealed, approving the Keystone Pipeline, and placing a 90-day travel ban on seven Muslim countries — all policies that arguably put America first, but at what cost?