Big government or small, Politicians seem to always find a way to get something done for better or worse. As efficient and buttoned down as the citizenship and leadership of the United States tries to make the governing process, there seems to always be a loop-hole, often due to varying interpretations of laws, traditions that have seemed to go unchecked for decades, and so on. We all witness it; we can’t help but notice an occasional law here or there that we ask ourselves “wait, how did that get passed?” But far more popular than other methods is that of the Executive Order, a supposed privilege of the President.
The executive order is not a new concept. In fact, the practice can be traced back to the Founders of the nation. Constitutional references such as Article II, sections I and III are used as the foundation for this privilege. It was by these terms that great acts of Government were performed such as the Emancipation Proclamation, the New Deal, the desegregation of the Armed Forces, the establishment of Native American reservations, and so on. I would go as far as to say that if other important transitions in the country, such as civil rights, and so forth were not to have passed in Congress, they would have been passed through Executive Order.
But are Executive Orders all that they are hyped up to be, and have they been used rampantly as some have been claiming recently? Executive Orders do give the President the authority to enact law alone as presumed. However, it does not end there, and there are safety measures in place. Congress can override an Executive Order by a 2/3 vote. Additionally, most Executive Orders are trivial. Few have reaching consequences, and indeed, a number are directed at individuals. Where Executive Orders have greatest power is when a political party is in control of both the Congress and Presidency, though Executive Orders are still eligible for veto.
So this brings us to how many Executive Orders have been issued, and by who. Who likes to use this power this most? Is it really getting out of hand? The short of it is, no, it’s not getting out of hand. Though more executive orders have been issued in the past 20 years than the first 20 years of the 1900′s, recently Executive Orders have been used significantly less than historically. Thanks to the data provided by the American Presidency Project, I was able to enumerate the executive orders and put together the charts below. From what I’ve found, Democrats tend to use Executive orders twice as much as Republicans do, even though Republicans have been in power for 6 more years than Democrats in the past 100+ years. The biggest users of Executive Order were President Truman and John F. Kennedy (adjusted to a 2-term Presidency). The biggest user of Executive Orders on the Republican side was interestingly enough, Ronald Reagan.
Things invokes the question, are Executive Orders good for the United States? Should the power be denied or encouraged? I couldn’t say, that would take a much lengthier analysis. So I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Point of this being, I am not entirely surprised to hear about President’s using Executive Orders, and they are not new. What you should always ask is what for instead of how many.