Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...
By Cheryl Bolen
President Donald Trump has, like all modern presidents, issued a flurry of executive orders in his first days in office, some of which can be surprisingly effective even without congressional involvement, a governance scholar told Bloomberg BNA.
“When this issue arose a few years ago, as President [Barack] Obama wrapped up his use of executive orders [on immigration], I underestimated the extent to which they could be effective in the absence of legislation,” said William Galston, chairman of the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program.
Since Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, he has issued four executive orders and postponed a signing scheduled for Jan. 26. By comparison, former President Barack Obama issued five executive orders in his first calendar week in office.
It is unclear whether one of Trump’s more controversial orders—to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border—will be successful because Congress must act to approve appropriations. But another order on immigration takes effect immediately.
In addition to executive orders, Trump has issued eight presidential memorandums to date, which are different from executive orders mostly in style, rather than substance.
The Constitution does not define executive orders or proclamations, nor does it explicitly vest the president with the authority to issue them, according to the Congressional Research Service.
“Nonetheless, such orders are accepted as an inherent aspect of presidential power, and, if based on appropriate authority, they have the force and effect of law,” the CRS said.
In addition, presidents often issue presidential memorandums and all three instruments can be used to direct and govern the actions of federal officials and agencies, the CRS said. If issued under a valid claim of authority and published, all three may have the force and effect of law, it said.
Executive orders must be published in the Federal Register; memorandums are published only when the president determines they have general applicability and legal effect, CRS said.
When it comes to efficacy, some executive orders are more powerful than others, Galston said.
The executive branch has the power to interpret existing legislation, and that interpretation can have a substantial bearing on how the law is enforced, Galston said. Further, under the prevailing Chevron legal doctrine, executive branch interpretations of existing law must be given considerable deference by the courts, he said.
“If there’s a statute on the books and its effect on the ground depends on its interpretation in Washington, and that interpretation changes, then you don’t need Congress,” Galston said. “And in the area of immigration, [Obama’s executive order] had a major impact.”
On the other hand, executive orders that require the redeployment of new resources or new government authority clearly need Congress, Galston said.
“Can President Trump simply say, ‘Let there be a wall?’ No he can’t,” Galston said. Because if there is anything fundamental to the structure of the Constitution, it’s that Congress is responsible for appropriations, he said.
Obama, frustrated by congressional inaction and obstruction, was frequently excoriated by congressional Republicans for his use of executive orders, which they called an irresponsible “bypass” of their constitutional role as lawmakers.
"[W]herever I can act on my own, without Congress, by using my pen to take executive actions, or picking up the phone and rallying folks around a common cause, that’s what I’m going to do,” Obama said in February 2014.
Still, by the conclusion of his presidency, Obama had averaged fewer executive orders per year in office than any U.S. president in 120 years, according to the Pew Research Center.
Obama issued 277 executive orders during his eight years in office, or 35 per year, which is the lowest average since President Grover Cleveland, according to a post by the center.
To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at email@example.com
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)