The Unintended Costs of Obama’s Presidential Power Expansion

Mack DeGeurin, Contributing Writer

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]



  1. This is disingenuous. It’s hard to take your argument at face value when you don’t even passingly acknowledge that the very existence of Trump is exactly the consequence—intended or otherwise—of what the Republican Party has been doing for the past decade at least. This is their monster. Did you write a companion piece titled, “The Costs of Tea Party Obstructionism” that I’m missing?

    Republicans really put their backs into basically halting governance under Obama, and now you suggest that Obama using EOs was, while understandable, ultimately ill-advised. What should he have done? Put the country on hold so the conservatives could have their tantrum? Twiddled his thumbs so he could leave office and gloat about what a mess the opposition had brought on them all?

    Nah, that’d be stealing from the Republican playbook, where political reputation matters more than trying to push through legislation you actually believe is good for the country. Disagree with Obama’s ideas, but it’s hard to doubt that he’s sincere about them. It’s the Republican party that’s made an art form of bad faith politics—but sure, let’s deflect from that and say Trump’s getting his cues from Barack Obama. As if without Obama showing Trump that a president can sign an executive order, it never would have occurred to this humble, working-class everyman from NYC to wield his authority with such tyrannical gusto.

    And nowhere is this bad faith politics more densely concentrated than in the giant weasel also known as Paul Ryan, so it’s baffling you’d mention him as an example of a Republican who opposes Trump’s EOs. Is this some weird way of shading him? Even the most cursory scan of the news and his own Twitter account would show you that he is doing anything but speaking up against Trump’s “presidential overreach.”


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