Abuse from the Executive
The relationship between the president and the people is transcendent. They are connected unlike any other politician, with the exception of the vice president, not only because that is the only contest that ballots are cast nation-wide, because the office is the face of the government, whether policies and legislation passed, cast a shadow of a good or bad light. The President has responsibilities that differ from other politicians because they need to connect on all levels for the relationship to work, and for the president to not be hated by the general public. The Presidency requires statesmanship, public speaking, and cooperation between all parties. The office is the go-to for citizens and their issues.
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” George Washingtonuttered those words during his farewell address to the people of the United States, forewarning the nation that political parties has the potential to tear this nation apart at the seams. President Washington’s theory was that political parties would undermine the foundations that people were killed over when the founding fathers were putting the framework in place. Citizens thinking would differ from one stance to another, solely based on the fact that their party aligns with thinking, even if you don’t. People would blindly vote with their party which would impede the free-thinking country that the United States is destined to be.
The founding fathers needed a new way of thinking and needed it quick. They needed concepts such as leadership, who would run the government, how they would run the government, how citizens would be appointed to positions, and what powers those officials would have when elevated in such places. One of the most important and momentous statute that was implemented was the separation of powers. The separation of powers or checks and balances as they are more commonly referred too, allows the three branches of government, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial, to operate freely within their respective constraints granted by the Constitution. More importantly, the Second Article defines where all branches must pull back regulation due to potential interference with other branches. Granted to the leader of the Executive Branch, an extremely vague proclamation giving the President the sole power to correct any legislation that they do not feel best fits the people of the United States. The decree is known as an Executive Order and the President himself is the solitary owner of the ability to use such order. Executive Orders, unlike memorandums, cannot exceed the cost to the tax payer of one hundred million dollars. Executive orders are required to be posted to the Federal Register, making them easier to track. An executive order is not clearly defined in the Constitution, or any other official document, but is only known as ensuring the president “…take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Each major party has a skewed interpretation of the text, favoring the laws they or their base want passed, which overall does not favor bi-partisan lawmaking.
The second article, although giving the American people the most ambiguous definition, gives us the clearest text related to the Executive Orders by stating, “…executive order can be used to execute a power the commander in chief already has. It can’t be used to give the presidency new powers.” Executive orders while vague in every definition are quite restrictive; the president cannot expand his role within the government despite the scope of broadness used in the constitution. All orders while not needing approval of Congress or other branches have to go through many stipulations in order to actually be “executed” or put in place. Every executive order is subject to scrutiny from the supreme court and frankly, the entirety of the country. The executive order is not necessarily total and final and can be overturned by Congress or deemed unconstitutional by the supreme court. The President also has the ability to veto Congress if he feels that a law which was passed does not best serve the country. If a law was passed conventionally through Congress, by whipping the proper number of votes together and receiving the majority of the “yay” vote, the President can veto said law very easily by not signing off when it comes to his desk for its final sign off. Just as the President can veto, Congress can overturn the Executive Orders with 2/3 majority of the vote. 2/3 majority of the vote seems very possible to the novice politician because Congress is a group of elected men and women who run their campaigns on the promise of togetherness and teamwork, but when it comes down to it, politicians are in it for themselves and remain focused on reelection. The rarity of overturning an executive order through the House and Senate is due to the non-cohesiveness of the body of the Congress and the “Washington congestion” that is so widely spoken about but not truly addressed.
Other branches oversee one another, to watch over the government and not allow one body who governs this nation to become too strong. In the 1800’s Andrew Jackson cleaned house and relieved all government employees from their duties and replaced them with new, like-minded men whose beliefs aligned with his thinking. Daniel Webster, a politician who was elected to The House and later the Senate, was staunchly against President Jacksons order and said, “The contest for ages has been to rescue liberty from the grasp of executive power.” Webster feared that the founding father’s idea of keeping power hungry officials at bay was quickly unraveling and that the President would slowly pick away and see what would be allowed until more radical orders would be accepted by the courts and Congress. Around the same time as when Andrew Jackson was replacing his government with his newly appointed workers, President Lincoln did not fear that Jackson overstepped the boundaries granted to him by the Constitution. President Lincoln did fear that one day Caesarian dangers could be the downfall to the republic if overstepping in the Executive branch were to happen too often and continued to be accepted by the public. Lincoln stated “…intoxication with their own supremacy…” in fright that the duly elected President could become so self-absorbed and power hungry that they sometimes overstep their roles and not always get caught and reeled back into their boundaries.
For generations, political leaders as well as the general public kept tabs on the President, making sure he does not impede on other officials and violates the constitution by issuing an unconstitutional Executive Order. If the President does overstep their boundary, there are steps set in place to either correct or revoke the political action set forth, ensuring the boundaries are respected.
Bill Clinton, in 1992, was elected to the highest office in the land, the President of the Unites States after defeating the incumbent two term Vice President, George H.W. Bush. While elevated to the role of President, President Clinton issued254 Executive Orders during his presidency and in 1995, he passed the controversial Executive Order 12954. EO 12954 was an order barring the federal government from entering into contracts with contractors who hired permanent workers for striking employees. President Clinton understood the unions and that they band together at times of distress, to use striking as an effective tool in an attempt to obtain better working conditions or represent their mistreatment. This kind of backing of the unions is unprecedented because Federal Contracts were always a safe bet for contractors when in desperate need of a contract. Federal contracts could range anywhere from a couple thousands of dollars, all the way to $43 billion dollars and anywhere in between, and if your company happened to hire replacement workers just to fulfill that contract, then that offer will become void, possibly causing a substantial loss for the bidding company. President Clintons driving force behind the order was to ensure the productivity of the federal government remains at peak levels and should not be affected by the relationship between the employer and employee.
Unfortunately for President Clinton, EO 12954 was nullified by the 104thCongress when Congressman William Goodling introduced resolution 1176. HR 1176 stated, “…the passage of EO 12954 seriously diminished the system of collective bargaining, which was an effective tool of unions and other blue-collar groups.” Both sides of the aisle agreed with the resolution because the balance of interests and risks between labor and their management is a fine line that should not be hindered or tampered with by a third party.
The nullification of EO 12954 was not the first time an executive order has been overturned on the grounds of it being unconstitutional or overreaching. In 1952 President Truman issued EO 1034 when he took control of the steel mills in an attempt to prevent the labor strikes from affecting the output of the nation’s most important good. The executive order was struck down from the courts shortly after its’ introduction, due to the executive branch overstepping into the legislative branch. The courts said, in their decision to nullify EO 1034 that executive orders must stem from an act of Congress or the Constitution itself, giving more clarity on how executive orders can be utilized legally. Ever since the revocation of EO 1034, Presidents are more likely to use a lot of the same verbiage from previous successful executive orders. The Clinton administration did not attempt to pass legislation the conventional way yet escalated to the use of the executive order in a short amount of time. If President Clinton thought he could get the legislation passed by going through the house and senate, why did he not go to the chambers of the legislative branch and present his case in a clear-cut argument? The fact that if the President is not a good enough statesman, if he lacks negotiation skills or has nothing to barter in a trade with other congressmen, they are forced to utilize the executive order to show to the people that they are at the very minimum, exasperating all options to further their parties’ interests.
When Congress or the Supreme deem it necessary to intervene in the passage of an Executive Order, it is not taken lightly by the rest of the government or the President himself. The body of the government who wishes to see the order revoked must have clear and concise reasoning for why they feel the order is either unconstitutional or an act of overstepping. The White House did not do much to combat the fact that the Presidents Executive Order was revoked, instead they turned to the means of conventional legislation in the House and Senate to get more protections for the union employees.
Let’s remember, the sole purpose of executive orders is for the President to act in the good will of the American people and to ensure the Constitution is being upheld faithfully. At what point do Presidents take advantage of the privilege and use it without being blind to partisanship? Upholding the Constitution should automatically mean for the good of the nation, but nowadays it seems like orders are for the good of the party. Did President Clinton know executive order 12954 was going to be shot down shortly after introduction? Did he want to show the unions he stands with the workers? President Clinton would’ve collected millions of votes if the unions backed him. The election was only a year or so out when the order was issued and if he could get the backing from the very wealthy, powerful and enormous labor unions across the country, he would’ve been in a great position. President Clinton, like every President before and after him, sworn under oath to uphold the ways of the country set in place by the founding fathers and agreed to do so. If the President starts waving the executive order power around and uses it solely to forward their agenda, did the founding fathers really set their predecessors up for success?
If an executive order was viewed on by the public as a partisan tool for either party to gain more seats in the house, to win more elections, to please a wealthy donor who supports their super pac, can it really be overturned if it was not deemed unconstitutional? Executive order 12954 wasn’t overturned because President Clinton was trying to please potential voters, it wasn’t turned over because he basically abused a power bestowed to him to gain votes, it was overturned because it was unconstitutional. That’s it. If it wasn’t deemed unconstitutional, the order would likely be in place to this day and President Clinton would have perhaps won the 1996 election by even a larger margin than he originally did.
There is no line whether or not an executive order was issued due to partisanship or for the good of the country, but the courts and elected officials are tasked with the responsibility to ensure the President carries out the will of the people. When President Obama was in office, executive orders were in the forefront due to his use of the policy. People do not see the difference between executive orders and executive actions, so naturally they though the terms were on in the same and accused him of abusing the power. Because President Obama did not have any of his executive orders overturned, does that mean he wasn’t abusive to the privilege?
President Obama’s executive order 13535, signed in March of 2010, reinforced the administration’s commitment to restrict federal funding of abortion. The order was signed after several pro-life democrats advised the president that they will not support his massive overhaul of the nation’s health care system if he did not take major steps to strengthen the language of the restriction of federal funds for abortion. Executive order 13535 was a show of commitment from Obama to democrats in the house that he is willing to work with his party, only if they are willing to work with him to pass historic legislation that is on the horizon. An executive order regarding abortion funding was not overturned, but an order effecting government agencies and which companies are granted contracts was nullified for being unconstitutional. President Obama used the executive order policy to advance his agenda, to please sitting politicians so they will vote his way when he introduces the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which affects every single American. Obamacare makes it mandatory for Americans who don’t have healthcare for more than three months, to be taxed at a penalty of 2.5% of your annual income. If executive order 13535 had never been passed, who knows if President Obama would’ve had enough votes to pass Obamacare.
Executive orders were never meant for Presidents to use as a bargaining chip, to give favors to other congressmen and senators in an attempt to get legislation passed that their constituents would like to see passed. The validity of the executive order is deteriorating, it is becoming a propaganda tool of each side of the aisle. When one party uses it, the other side will call it an abuse of power and demand the criteria to issue one it to be more scrutinized or completely done away with all together. The media in modern day politics is rarely unbiased, and either supports or creates a divide with any agenda, regardless of political preference. The premise of an honest government who fails to lie and succeeds in telling the truth is watered down and virtually non-existent with back door deals and him or her only looking out for themselves, making sure they always win the next election.