In a Representative Democracy such as the United States, most people are familiar with what a law is, many people know how a bill differs from a law, but most probably do not understand what an Executive Order is.  Surely a week does not pass that it is not reported someplace that the President of the United States either signed an Executive Order to put into place a new policy or to rescind a previous one.  The situation can be confusing because the President of the United States is generally not understood to be someone who makes law.

The President of the United States is the head of the Executive Branch and he or she has some explicit powers and some gray ones.  The president can, for example, lead the country in making decisions regarding foreign affairs, nominate individuals for the Supreme Court, or in the role as “commander-in-chief ” lead the military.  But the president’s authority is not absolute as any treaty he or she negotiates with a foreign power must still be approved by Congress, nominees to the Supreme Court must be confirmed by the Senate, and any troop deployments over 60 days must be authorized by Congress due to the War Powers Resolution.  So, while the power of the president seems great it is, like virtually every other area of the U.S. government, subject to checks and balances.  One area in which the president can have a great deal of power is in the area of the Executive Order.

Click to continue reading “Executive Orders and the Law”

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“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States…” were the words that President Obama planned to say on January 20th before Chief Justice John Roberts botched the presidential oath of office and Mr. Obama repeated his mistake.  Assuming no darker motives—that Mr. Roberts was not deliberately creating a validation for a future ruling that Mr. Obama is not America’s president—his public snafu with Mr. Obama might at least foreshadow a period of little cooperation, perhaps even blatant counteraction, between an economically interventionist Mr. Obama and a still strict-constructionist Supreme Court.

1978, the last time America saw a Democratic majority in Congress as great as it is now—nearly 60%—coincided with the first term of President Carter—also a Democrat.  The 96th Congress that convened until 1980 was marked by broad productivity, passing more laws than the two Congress’ that preceded it.  If the high output of bills was due to Democratic control of the legislature and the White House, then the current—111th—Congress ought to be the most productive in a long time.  Nonetheless, the current federal judiciary remains much more conservative than that of 1978, suggesting that any productive period in Congress will likely be met with constitutionality rulings in the Supreme Court.

Click to continue reading “U.S. v. Barack Obama: The slippery slopes of the Constitution”

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