Feb 242010
Authors: Jeremy Davis | The News Record

Despite being an open critic during his campaign of former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s frequent use of executive orders and signing statements, President Barack Obama will now go back on yet another campaign promise and take over the role of decider-in-chief by laying down his own authoritarian decrees.

Frustrated by the failure to get health care reform and cap-and-trade bills through Congress, the Obama administration will whip up a fresh batch of executive orders and presidential signing statements to effectively shape its own laws and advance its own agenda.

“With much of his legislation agenda stalled in Congress, President Obama and his team are preparing an array of actions using his executive power to advance energy, environmental, fiscal and other domestic policy priorities,” the New York Times reported.

The Obama presidency has barely hit the one-year mark and has already issued nearly 50 executive orders on a wide variety of issues. Obama may even be well on his way to surpassing Bush, who ended his two terms as president with a stock of 289 executive orders.

“We are reviewing a list of presidential executive orders and directives to get the job done across a front of issues,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, in the Times article.

Just this week, ABC News reported the president will issue an executive order to create the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to look into national debt solutions. Even though the Senate defeated a move in Congress to establish this very kind of committee, the president is taking it upon himself to create one anyway.

Another example of the presidents’ willingness to toss his executive weight around was seen in his attempts to pressure the Senate to confirm 27 presidential nominations, which were stalled by Republicans. The president promised to use his power of recess appointment to bring in his nominations while the Senate is away, thus undermining a responsibility vested in Congress.

The Obama administration’s more decisive approach toward governing is undoubtedly made to counteract the growing force of opposition toward the policies of the president, Congress and government in general by the American people.

Executive orders only serve those who seek to further establish a strong executive, something that should be quite incompatible with a constitutional republic like ours.

Executive orders are a danger to our constitutional system of government and their use has traditionally resulted in undermining our liberties by those who abuse them.

Executive orders do have a logical use in that if kept inside the limit of simply directing those individuals within the executive branch to do their job more effectively and constitutionally. It’s when these orders venture outside the realm of the executive branch that it becomes a problem.

This “forget Congress” mentality has plagued many administrations for countless decades. While executive orders can result in good policies like Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, it can also result in blemishes on America’s history, like Franklin Roosevelt’s order to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Contrary to modern political thought, the presidency was intended to have a very limited and restricted role in the legislation process. If Congress gives the president a bill he doesn’t agree with or deems unconstitutional, he would only need to veto it, but Congress can still override him.

The Founding Fathers didn’t draft the Constitution with a central leader with extensive power in mind. Their experience of living under the rule of a despotic king fueled their attempts to prevent a tyrannical centralized government from taking hold here.

Article I, Section I of the Constitution reads quite clearly when it states: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.”

Only the legislative branch, not the executive branch, can craft laws; end of story.

The nature of the presidency and its expanding power has been evolving more and more with each passing administration. It’s just unfortunate that Obama will continue to follow in the steps of his power-grabbing predecessors.

Jeremy Davis writes for the News Record, the University of Cincinnati’s student paper. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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