Executive Orders Run Rampant

Rebecca Pujo, Editor-in-Chief

In light of President Donald Trump’s most recent actions since his inauguration, some questions have arisen over the constitutionality of executive orders.

In the past decades, the use of presidential executive orders has been increasing, and has become almost a norm rather than a last resort to help the country. Executive orders have essentially become an easy way out when the President runs into issues collaborating with Congress.

Executive orders are orders given by the President over his jurisdiction under the executive branch. However, when these orders overlap into the jurisdiction of the legislative or judicial branches, the constitutionality of it becomes questionable.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, independent, it doesn’t matter who the president is, if orders are put in place that exceed the power of the executive department, then that’s wrong, and moreover, if something is done which contradicts a law which Congress has passed, well that clearly is unconstitutional,” history teacher Brad Goldberg said.

In his term, president Obama gave out 276 executive orders, and President Trump has already issued 12 executive orders, as of his first month in office. President Franklin Roosevelt set the record for most ever executive orders, at 3,522 within his three terms of presidency, which can be seen as a turning point bringing power back to the Presidency.

Executive orders should only be used as a last resort, not an easy way around the long process of passing laws in our government. But when a president uses executive lawmaking, as has happened in recent years, this is unconstitutional, and needs to be checked by the power of other branches.

Among these orders includes one of the most controversial executive orders in history, order 9066, which gave authority to send Japanese-Americans to internment camps. In instances like these, it becomes very questionable as to why the president has so much power that he can single-handedly order millions of people to internment camps, or create laws or do some other action that does not seem to be in his jurisdiction.

However, there can be instances when overreaching executive power is acceptable, such as in the case of a world war. But the U.S. is not currently at war (yet), and so this is not a justification for orders that have violated the Constitution within the past few years.

However, it is important to understand that while it is not a beneficial trend, the increased use of executive orders in the last few decades has become somewhat necessary, especially in circumstances when the legislative and executive branch are dominated by two different parties, which makes it extremely difficult for them to come to agreements especially in lawmaking. This was exemplified by Obama’s two-term presidency, and the controversial executive orders that came with it.

“When all that gridlock is going through, stuff still needs to be done, just because Congress isn’t doing its job, doesn’t mean that the U.S. government shouldn’t be doing theirs, so [executive orders do] become necessary,” sophomore Jack Sobel said.

If we want to fix the problems within the executive branch, it is necessary to first address those within the other branches, and so this increasing trend tells us that some sort of reform in Congress, or in the American party system in general, is necessary.

“The best way for a President to have a lasting legacy though is to work with Congress & pass legislation. A President can ignore an executive order, but a President cannot ignore congressional law,” Montgomery College Political Science Instructor Gregory Sember said.