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August 1, 2021

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DARREL SMITH: Presidents have a history of abusing powers

2 min read

Published Mobridge Tribune 

One of the powers of executives is to issue orders to their organizations. U.S. presidents have similar powers. Executive orders are a part of our history running back through administrations of different parties since America was founded.

When is this power valid and how is the power abused? A president’s order is often valid if he uses it to accomplish his duties as commander of the armed forces, as head of state, as law enforcement officer, as head of the executive branch or to grant pardons. The power is abusive if the president uses it to create new laws, or to revise or repeal existing laws.

Recent Democratic presidents have been fairly open about their abuse of executive orders. Clinton’s aide Paul Begala said, “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.” Obama has said he has a pen and a phone and has explicitly said, “[W]e can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will.”

For example, Obama didn’t enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. When Congress didn’t pass a cap and trade bill, the Environmental Protection Agency created a set of rules. When Congress didn’t pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, an executive order granted protection to immigrants. Instead of going to Congress to get war approval, the administration went to the United Nations for authorization for the Libyan assault.

Republican presidents are guilty of similar abuse. Republican presidents, including President Bush, abused executive orders, especially in the security area. Our goal shouldn’t be some comparable standard of abuse but correcting the abuse.

Presidential orders to the federal government and its federal agencies who create, execute, police, prosecute, and judge federal regulations is a powerful force. The Constitution is clear when it says, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” (Article I, Section 1)

Speaking of the misuse of presidential executive power Thomas Sowell has said, “If laws passed by the elected representatives of the people can be simply over-ruled unilaterally by whoever is in the White House, then we are no longer a free people, choosing what laws we want to live under.”… “The separation of powers into legislative, executive and judicial branches of government is at the heart of the Constitution of the United States — and the Constitution is at the heart of freedom for Americans”…“The Constitution of the United States cannot protect us unless we protect the Constitution.”…“There have been many wise warnings that freedom is seldom lost all at once. It is usually eroded away, bit by bit, until it is all gone.” And then, “we have been reduced from citizens to subjects, and the Constitution has become just a meaningless bunch of paper.”