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Executive Action

February 15, 2017

I’m confused, and worried!


We’ve all seen pictures of our new president signing executive orders. Some, like the one placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council, we now know he didn’t even read, but my confusion isn’t about the content of these executive orders. Rather, my focus is on why Trump finds it necessary to resort to them.


The Constitution permits the president to issue executive orders for a variety of reasons. Presidents have signed them throughout our history, often in times of war or when Congress has adjourned. And let’s be clear, they’ve always been subject to judicial review.


Every president, with the exception of William Henry Harrison who died only weeks after being inaugurated, signed them. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was rolled out as an executive action, making it necessary to later pass the XIII Amendment making abolition of slavery permanent. Teddy Roosevelt used an executive action to preserve the Grand Canyon from developers. More recently, Obama resorted to executive actions because the Republican opposition made it clear they would not work with him.


One example of an executive action by the 44th president was to create a marine sanctuary off the coast of Hawaii. President Obama was pilloried for his use of them, called a tyrant and accused of breaking the Constitution even though his 276 executive orders fall short of the 291 signed by George W. Bush or Reagan’s 381. FDR leads the list with 3,522 executive actions. In three weeks Trump has signed 12.


Although executive actions don’t carry the weight of a law passed by Congress and signed by the president, they are legal—until Congress nullifies them with permanent legislation or the Constitution is amended. I couldn’t help wondering why Congress dithered instead of

nullifying Obama’s orders on immigration by doing their job and passing proper immigration



Unlike Obama, Trump has a Republican majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, so why isn’t he asking Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to craft bills related to his campaign promises? Why is Congress allowing President Trump to marginalize congressional power? Could it be that they don’t really support Trump and are simply using him to promote their own agenda until such a time as Trump becomes too much of a liability?


Had Congress been involved in writing the order blocking immigration from half a dozen Islamic nations it would have had a better chance of standing up in the courts and probably wouldn’t have sparked as much outrage and caused such a disruption at our airports.


Trump seems to thrive on conflict and chaos, but Congress should be careful letting him issue these orders without their consent or participation. Republicans have made a deal with the devil in order to cement their grip on power, but Trump is not a conservative, or even a true Republican.


Trump’s surrogates are everywhere proclaiming that our new president’s actions are not subject to judicial review. They’re wrong—for now—but if our elected representatives don’t wake up and start crafting sensible legislation supported by a majority of Americans, not just those who voted for Trump, Congress might become as irrelevant as the Roman Senate when emperors took over.


I’m not a fan of our current batch of legislators but I think they should be required to do their job rather than let Trump continue to scribble his name on documents while preening in front of cameras. 



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I agree with your low opinion of Congress. But ... do the squabbling Congresspeople merely reflect the great mass of squabbling Americans? (Well, I hope not, but sometimes I wonder.)
By: Tom Sightings on February 15, 2017
I agree completely. We have a bunch of selfish, greedy, power hungry people in the U. S. Congress and the country is going to suffer because of them.
By: Joe Meeks on February 15, 2017
I've wondered that too. My only guesses are that as we saw with the travel ban a lot of the stuff wouldn't be constitutional and also they wanted to make a big splash even though a lot of the orders aren't actually DOING a lot. "The wall" and Obamacare still need addressed by Congress.
By: PT Dilloway on February 15, 2017
No one should be allowed to run for Senate or House if they are a lawyer. They convolute and twist the law to suit their own selfish greedy needs. I am disgusted with the whole dirty laundry basket in WDC.
By: Kathe W. on February 15, 2017
Amen. I am afraid we're in a bigger mess than we can even imagine
By: Sage on February 15, 2017
It all boggles my mind.
By: messymimi on February 15, 2017
Maybe Trump was just trying to send the message that he was keeping his campaign promises -- not that the executive orders actually mean that, but they give the appearance of meaning it. I worry as much about the people behind Trump as Trump himself. He is surrounded by people I would equally dislike to be in the presidential chair, and in several cases I believe that they are actually the ones pulling the strings. Bannon is especially frightening.
By: jenny_o on February 15, 2017
Congress is using him as long as they can. The more we complain, the sooner they will get sick of him. Call and write! Call your representative and senator, and write to them. We all need to be such pains in their butts that they get sick of him. Love, Janei
By: Janie Junebug on February 15, 2017
I agree with Jenny and think he is just making a big show for his supporters that he is acting on campaign promises.I'm not sure even he thinks they will stand. I think if we just relax, this house of cards will crumble. It is all ready teetering..
By: Arkansas Patti on February 15, 2017
You've got some thoughtful points. As Canadian, I don't know how your system operates but you've explained some things.
By: red Kline on February 15, 2017
Conflict and long can you "lead" a nation like that?
By: Pixel Peeper on February 15, 2017
Trump scares the hell out of me!!
By: fishducky on February 15, 2017
"That fellow up in Portland, who nobody reads anymore, has treated me very, very unfairly." --President Donald Trump
By: Catalyst on February 15, 2017
Ditto what Kathe W said. Individual congressmen are loathe to take a stand on a controversial issue. They're willing to let Trump run it up the flagpole, and if it's well received, then they'll jump on, too. If not, they'll just lay low. I suspect those who are ardently supporting Trump's Executive Actions are from very "safe" districts. If they are from hotly contested districts they wouldn't want to risk pissing off one group or another. No solidly blue district would EVER say anything good about a Republican idea, and no solidly red district would ever give a Democratic idea a fair hearing. That's how polarized/gridlocked we are. Good post! :)
By: scott park on February 15, 2017
Excellent points. I heard one analyst refer to Executive Orders as "news releases on steroids." We are in uncharted territory and sadly a maniac and vulgarian are in control of the White House.
By: Tom Cochrun on February 15, 2017
Trump is troubling and so are the many things he has done with only being in office for 3 weeks. I think what you wrote is wise and well written
By: Birgit on February 15, 2017
Unprecedented, unprincipled and unpredictable... goings on in the white house.
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 15, 2017
well, you've read enough of my posts to know how I feel. The fact that certain republican senators are refusing to step up and investigate his ties with Russia even with all the evidence leads me to believe that many of our senators are complicit. why else would they not want to investigate real treason? One of the rogue WH twitter accounts is pretty certain there's a Russian mole in Trump's admin. I've about decided that many of our republican congressmen are Russian sleeper agents and they are doing their job of bringing the US down from the inside.
By: Ellen Abbott on February 16, 2017
What a well written analysis of what's happening in Washington. I agree with Ellen completely. What a mess. We the voting public certainly have gotten a wake up call to arms. Now it is up to us to change things. I read an article yesterday that said that the Woman's March had a much bigger impact than was even suspected. It has fired many folks to be involved at the grassroots level and above. Resist
By: Oma Linda on February 16, 2017
Thanks for the useful overview of the American political scene, something that I - and many others outside the USA - find baffling at the moment. By whatever means, I hope that Congress can keep the loose-canon Trump under some sort of control for all our sakes.
By: Bryan Jones on February 16, 2017
I've never seen the likes of what the US is going through right now. Of course, my perfect world was a long time ago and I am not so stupid as to think we can go backwards in time...but geesh what a mess our country is in.
By: Terri@ Coloring Outside the Lines on February 16, 2017

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