Executive Orders

Executive Orders – Are they Right to Use?

John A. Rosado

December 20, 2010

Executive Orders – Are they Right to Use?



Events with Executive Orders

What led to the use of the Executive Orders?

How have they changed the relationship between the president and congress?

Have they been better for the people?

Sources of tension between congress and the president.


Executive Orders – Are they Right to Use?

This paper “Executive Orders – Are they Right to Use” is about the use of Executive Orders, by the president, and whether the use of them is an exercise in an abuse of power. Congress and the president are given power in the Constitution of the United States. They were given these powers to provide checks between the two branches of government. As with any power or powers they can be abused. The term “Executive Order” does not appear anywhere in the Constitution, or in any of the 27 Amendments. They are implied however in a few places. This paper will look at the implied areas as well as some of the orders themselves.

Executive Orders are implied by Article II, section 1, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President” and then in section 2, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of…” If he is executive and commander then he must be able to give orders, otherwise the title means nothing. Some believe that Executive Orders are misused while others believe they should be used more. Of course when a person likes the executive that signs the order then they will usually like the use of Executive Order at least in that instance. I am one who believes that they are abused therefore congress, the courts, and ultimately the people should curtail their use and actually overturn many of them. The people do not have the power to overturn them, but the people can vote if they are informed, and this is the major problem facing our country today, an informed voter. The over use of Executive Orders are totalitarian in nature. Therefore they should be used only in extreme circumstances. We must always remember the presidency by its own nature is a powerful office and must always be treated that way, and with great respect. George Washington after he won the war against the British was urged by some to use his army to make himself king, but he did instead return to his farm, (Pence) King George III said; “if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” He did and he was.

The veto and the executive order are the two most powerful tools he has in his arsenal. Let’s look at how President Washington used his veto power. President Washington vetoed two bills presented to him by the congress in his eight years as president. The first one vetoed on 5 April 1792 was on constitutional grounds that it gave disproportionate representation to eight states. He cited Article I, section 2, paragraph 3, “according to their respective numbers”. The second was vetoed 28 February 1797, because congress was about to release 3 companies from the regular army that Washington determined required for the defense of the nation. Washington was truly a statesman.

Since the presidency of John Q Adams, Executive Orders have been used 5207 times which averages 135 per president. I have looked at the numbers and associated their use by presidents and major events. From John Quincy Adams to President Lincoln Executive Orders were used 25, times which I will call the patriot years. They used them little more than once every two years. President Lincoln used it 115 times or 29 times per year. Andrew Johnson used it 66 times or 17 times per year which we will call wartime and reconstruction years. Then we went back to the patriot years with Executive Orders being used a little less that once per year.

Beginning with Cleveland we have the start of a more liberal use of the Executive Orders127 times for the six presidents Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson. Incidentally Communist manifesto which was first published in 1848 had made considerable headway in Europe, was finding many readers in the United States. Harding used Executive Orders sparingly once per year. Coolidge used it 3 times per year, with Hoover using it 11 times per year bringing back the progressive era of Executive Orders. Up through 1933 Executive Orders were used only 991 times for an average of 7 per year from the founding of this nation.

Starting with the election of Franklin Roosevelt we have the imperial presidencies. These 12 presidents used Executive Orders 4,259 times during 77 years for an average use of 55 Executive Orders per year. Meanwhile Bolshevik’s had taken Russia and communist parties had infiltrated many countries in Europe as well as the United States. I just find the coincidence of these two items interesting. FDR was a very effective demagogue in the use of both Executive Orders and veto’s. He also promised to stack the Supreme Court which moved one swing vote into his corner to make his plethora of alphabet programs now constitutional. He truly was the people’s choice, elected four times to the presidency. He took the country out of the great depression by taking the country into the Second World War.

Harry Truman was an unusual president, never liked by the Roosevelt regime. He entered the White House, through the front door, for the first time after Roosevelt died. He was the only president to have only a high school degree. He took the Executive Order use to a whole new art form by using them 895 times in his eight years a president. He did brag that he had a do nothing congress while Roosevelt had a do anything congress. One of his best Executive Orders use was that he desegregated the armed forces after Woodrow Wilson had segregated them.

Eisenhower apparently did not get the Executive Orders pen passed on to him from Truman because he only used it 176 times during his two terms. He did use his Executive Order powers to desegregate southern schools by sending National Guard troops to Little Rock to enforce segregation (Lewis) September 24 1957.

In his nearly three years as president JFK used Executive Orders powers 214 times and was considered the Camelot presidency. He also faced probably the most dangerous time in our history with the Cuban Missile Crises. JFK also started the civil rights discussion in the congress. His vision took us to the moon and back safely in 1969.

Lynden Johnson used Executive Orders 324 times. He took us into the undeclared Vietnam War which cost almost 50,000 lives. He gave us the war on poverty and the great society. He also started the greatest expansion of government this country has seen and continues to this day. He also brought us the beginning of plethora alphabet agencies that have taken over law making from a willing congress in violation of the United States Constitution. Congress began to willingly hand over legislation capabilities to the executive branch, also in violation of the Constitution, Article I section 1 “All powers herein granted shall be vested in the Congress”. Congress was of the same political party as LBJ and passed almost anything Johnson wanted. Congress also passed JFKs civil rights act which Johnson signed into law.

Richard Nixon use Executive Orders 346 times and earned the distinction as the imperial president. He got us out of the Vietnam War where the military won every battle while the politicians lost the war. This cost us another 8,000 lives. Nixon resigned because of Watergate cover-up, before an impeachment vote was taken. He did have a congress of the opposite party which was consistently at odds with him. His presidency also ushered in the press with an agenda syndrome, that is their agenda was not to dig to the cause and tell the whole story so much as it was to destroy presidencies.

Gerald Ford used Executive Orders 169 times. One was used to give a pardon to Richard Nixon which many think was wrong and wanted to see Nixon in prison. He received a lot of hate speech from the press for doing this. I believe Ford did the right thing to avert a national catastrophe.

Jimmy Carter who I believe to be the worst president in our nation’s history used the Executive Orders320 time in his four years. He gave us the “gas tank is empty” syndrome with the longest lines to the gas stations ever saw, longer that the food lines during Hoover and FDR. He also gave us 21% prime interest rates 25% inflation and unemployment the highest since the great depression, which Obama has not yet equaled, however very close if one uses the Q6 line, which today stands at 18%. He also gave us the 444 day hostage crises in Iran which the results of, still plague us today. He also demoralized our armed forces.

Ronald Reagan used Executive Orders half as much as Carter, 381 times in eight years. He gave us largest personal tax cut since it was created in 1913, as well as the longest peace time growth this country has ever seen. He gave us “Star Wars” and the end of the Soviet Union.

George H W Bush used Executive Orders 166 times and gave us the first gulf war, undeclared and the ground operation was over in four days. The fourth largest army in the world was reduced to the 25th largest in those four days of ground a 30 days of air raids.

Clinton used Executive Orders 365 times during his reign. He brought us the embarrassment of impeachment for the second time in the history of our country. He demoralized our armed forces again, and reduced them to one million men. We were the victims of four terrorist attacks on US property around the world. North Korea got the bomb and he sold the Lincoln bedroom to the highest bidder making lots of money for the Democratic National Party.

George W Bush used Executive Orders 274 times during his eight years. During his reign we got into two wars, only one attack on our homeland which cost 3,000 American lives. He did lower individual tax rates that his father had raised. We then sustained a six year growth period. He also gave us TARP.

Barrack Obama used Executive Orders 71 times. We have now been the victims of four attacks on our homeland. We got the worst oil disaster in our nation’s history along the gulf coast. Several countries offered equipment and ships to clean up the oil before it hit land which he refused to allow. This would certainly be a proper use of Executive Orders to suspend the Jones act temporally.

The leading to the use of Executive Orders of the 200+ years of our nation has changed throughout the years. During the patriot years it was used to define the role of the executive branch for efficiency wages and to establish departments as authorized by the congress and the constitution. Lincoln used them to run the war and keep the union together. He did suspend the writ of habeas corpus. During the war and he issued the emancipation proclamation. After the reconstruction period we did return to patriot years, for a while. With the presidency of Grover Cleveland and the beginning of the progressive period, several things happened at about the same time, the start of the industrial revolution the advent of unions and the advance of communism around the industrialized world. The use of Executive Orders was a result of the times and not a cause of events.

With all the events listed above I find that the use of Executive Orders caused no discernable tension between congress and the president, with exception of Andrew Johnson but I believe his problem was more that he was a confederate and opposed the civil rights for Blacks after the war.

The imperial presidencies are a different item. FDR used both the Executive Orders and the veto to establish control of the congress, Supreme Court, and the country. He was charismatic and very well liked by the people; he told them what they wanted to hear. Since then reading the crowds and telling them what they want to hear has become an art form which usually does not require attention to the issues. Imperial presidencies have continued to expand with each president taking more power and each congress giving up more power.

The relationship between the executive and the congress has change to such an extent that we as a people gave up our republic in favor of an oligarchy on November 4, 2008. We now have major bills passed by congress without ever reading them such as the stimulus bill, 13 hours from publishing the stimulus bill to its passing the house; then Nancy Pelosi said “you must pass the health care bill to see what is in it.” They did and now we are. That is the perfect definition of a true oligarchy.

Is it better for the people? That depends on your definition of what is better for the people and who the people are being referred to. (Webb) “Ken Salazar ordered a moratorium on drilling until the safety improvements could be implemented and investigations into the Deepwater Horizon accident had concluded.” While this is not an executive order per say the order to shut down drilling did come from the Oval office.

Executive Orders have caused little to increase the tensions between the Congress and the President. There are some in congress, however small, that believe the overuse of Executive Orders is wrong. In a speech before Hillsdale College, congressman Mike Pence issued a warning on the use and misuse of both Executive Orders and Veto’s. (Pence) “Who is better suited, with his executive and veto powers, to carry over the duty of self-restraint and discipline to the ideal of fiscal solvency?” The real result in the over use and misuse of executive power abuse has caused serious strain between the presidency and the people who have given their consent to be governed. This presidency has begun to wake up the people; the Tea Parties are the result.

Executive Orders are an implied part of our government coming from the United States Constitution. The implication is that Executive Orders are to be used for establishing and organizing the executive branch and foreign policy only. They were never intended to rule the country or to usurp the constitution from the power of the people. I have shown in this paper the events and the time line as we have moved from a republic defined by our constitution to an oligarchy that would never be recognized by our founders. It has been slow process but we did manage to do it. But then the Romans did not lose their republic over night either. Have we lost our republic for good? That question will be answered over the next few years. The revolution has begun with the tea parties winning back the house for republican majority. The tea parties won two battles in the house and in many states, and lost one in the senate. Will the new crop of legislators actually make a change in the governance of this country or will they be co-opted by the system? We will see beginning January 3, 2011 when the new crop is sworn in. Will they actually support and defend the Constitution of the United States as is in their oath of office, or will they be co-opted by the promise of Persepolis a city destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. If they do, then we must replace them, or our country will suffer the same fate as Persepolis.


Gaziano, Todd, F. Legal Memorandum. The Heritage Foundation.

http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2001/02/LM2ES-The-Use-and-Abuse-of-Executive-Orders Retrieved November 22, 2010

Constitution of the United States.

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