Within hours of his inauguration, President Donald Trump forwarded his first executive order, calling for massive scale-backs to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Since then, the President has signed over 10 executive orders, proclamations and memorandums even though Republicans hold a majority in the House and Senate. Although the Republican Party traditionally favors limited government, the President has justified these orders by pointing to a desire to override executive orders during the Obama administration. While Obama’s decision to rely on executive orders due to a gridlocked Congress may have created successful policies, his actions have effectively set a precedent for a vast and dangerous overreach of executive power under Trump.
Each president since George Washington has relied on executive orders in some capacity to circumvent Congress. Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt’s Japanese internment camps and George W. Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program did not pass through Congress but by presidential orders. As a result, the power of the executive has largely continuously expanded past its original parameters.
Rather than simply overriding Obama’s overreaching policies however, Trump is taking a much more significant step, implementing policies that are not only opposed by Democrats, but by powerful Republicans as well. When asked in June if he agreed with the President’s ban on Muslim immigrants, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, “I do not think it is reflective of our principles, not just as a party, but as a country.”
These executive orders pose additional threats in that they will be difficult to repeal in the next four years. To counteract any new executive orders, Congress must pass a law — a law which the president can veto with one stroke of his pen.
Trump’s threat to American democracy began long before his bid for the presidency, and it has manifested itself incrementally through each small but cumulative act of presidential overreach. Despite executive orders’ immediate results, Democrats should have opposed former President Obama’s reliance on the orders to sidestep Congress. Now, in addition to possessing the power to erase Obama’s political gains, Trump can also push forward his most authoritarian proposals.
Although the bureaucratic quagmire of enacting new legislation in a polarized Congress may be frustrating, curtailing the basic institutions of checks and balances tears the very foundation of what the Founding Fathers so meticulously crafted. Republicans are now tasked with the same challenges that Democrats faced during the last administration. The stakes, however, have increased tenfold. With a Republican-controlled Congress and soon-to-be Republican-dominated Judiciary featuring at least one Trump-appointed Justice, conservative voters and politicians bear the immense responsibility of imposing constitutional checks on our sitting president.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email at Mack DeGuerin at [email protected]