How powerful are executive orders

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Presidents have two choices when trying to advance their policy agenda. They can either suggest a proposal to Congress or hope that the members turn bills into laws or they can do it on their own. Every president in past has enjoyed having and extending unilateral powers. At times even going past their authority. The ability to create a policy with the stroke of a pen is a strong tool. But that power has limitations, especially when it comes to influencing the economy.  A president’s status rises and falls with gross domestic product. The state of the economy can decide whether a president is re-elected and how their legacy holds throughout history. 

For decades, the field of political science was dominated by the thought that presidents have very little legal power, and the little that was there, it was far too often focused on veto power or the appointment authority of the president. But that has changed. The recognition and increased use of unilateral action have formed a new age of presidency. Some of the most famous executive orders throughout history include President Roosevelt’s order to approve the detention of Japanese American citizens. Harry Truman’s effort to nationalize the steel industry. And President Kennedy’s demand that government contractors implement affirmative action policies. From boundary walls to taxes to reversing environmental regulations, President Donald Trump has shifted the boundaries of the presidency by often acting alone.

While Trump is identified to openly push the norms of unilateral action, President Ronald Reagan was well-known for his smooth and strategic use of them. Only a month into his position, President Reagan signed the iconic executive order twelve two ninety-one. It was designed to overcome the burden that federal regulation places on the economy. The order was important in two ways. It required all agencies to issue a law only if the potential benefits to society exceed the costs. Once an agency drafted the submitted rule, it required that it be submitted to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for evaluation. Reagan’s twelve two ninety-one was unclearly written, leaving a lot for the explanation. Some studies declare that it makes it difficult to reach its original intent. Still, twelve two ninety one is recognized as one of the orders that have changed the direction of history.

President Barack Obama greets guests in the Oval Office before signing an executive order on the Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government, Nov. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

When talking about Obama’s legacy on executive work, the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is one often discussed. The policy, which still holds today, instructed the Department of Homeland Security to prevent deporting and provide temporary legal status for immigrants who illegally came to the U.S. as children. 

The vagueness of Article two in the Constitution has left presidents with the capacity to take initiative on several policy areas that could be problematic. When the economy is suffering and an election is approaching, there’s a possibility by presidents to push those boundaries beyond the normal. And when a president becomes successful in a way others have not with his executive orders, it sets up ripple effects for all the upcoming presidents to use their powers as they wish. 

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