Operating within limits
Former President Barack Obama’s abuse of executive orders to get his way when Congress refused to go along with him — or when he simply did not want the American people to know what he was doing — was wrong.
President Donald Trump’s critics now point to the fact that his use of executive orders has outstripped that by Obama.
Obama violated the spirit of the American system of separation of powers repeatedly. Most of the time, he did so legally, though there were times when he was on the wrong side of the law. One of them was in funneling payments to insurance companies to make the Affordable Care Act appear to be more effective than it was.
Every president, beginning with George Washington, has used executive orders. Most of them have restricted such action to situations in which they were merely enforcing laws or policies with which Congress was in agreement.
Obama went far beyond that, sometimes issuing executive orders because he knew Congress would not authorize actions he sought.
During his first three years in office, Obama issued 108 executive orders. At the same point in his presidency, Trump has put forth 130 of them.
Some of the incumbent’s actions, such as diverting Pentagon money from originally intended purposes to build sections of his “border wall,” clearly are questionable.
But most of Trump’s orders have been mere management tools, not attempts to bypass Congress. In fact, two of his recent orders, earlier this month, limit the executive branch’s power.
One of those orders requires federal agencies to seek input from families and small businesses before issuing orders that could affect them. The second order limits use of “guidance” by federal agencies, which Trump termed a “back door for regulators to effectively change the law.”
Thus far, then, Trump has not abused executive orders in the same way Obama did. He should keep in mind, however, that the more of them he issues, the more scrutiny there will be by Americans who understand that even the most powerful person on earth must operate within certain limits.