President Obama raised more than a few eyebrows during his State of the Union speech on Jan. 28. Among other claims, he promised he would, “bypass Congress if needed,” through the power of his executive orders on many legislative matters.
As lawmakers gave him a standing ovation, President Obama promised not to involve lawmakers in making laws. What?
Now, the use of executive orders, especially by a second term president, is certainly not unheard of. Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton used this power to make significant legal changes without all the red tape of actually obeying constitutional law.
This irritates many constitutionalists because the constitution does not explicitly grant any power comparable to an executive order. But every president in U.S. history, with the exception of William Henry Harrison, has issued at least one executive order, so it seems that it is a power that will not be going anywhere. However, George Washington made only eight executive orders.
Barack Obama is currently at 162. This indicates a steady push for more power in the executive branch.
In creating the executive branch, the framers of the Constitution were not attempting to make a head legislator. The executive branch was meant to be the enforcer of the nation’s policies – not their writer. The executive order was intended to regulate the implementation of laws by the federal government.
Executive orders are not meant to be used like they are today. By nature, they can only be issued to federal organizations, but citizens will always be affected. What President Obama promised, or threatened, depending on your position, is a clear breach of the checks and balances in our government. There are even those who question the constitutionality of his claims. In this time of congressional re-elections, we need to ask ourselves: What is the point in electing representatives if they are just going to be bypassed by the president?
At this time, it is unclear whether Obama will make good on his promise to override Congress, but his statements foreshadow a system in which the president no longer needs congressional approval of major policy changes. If this shift in the balance of government takes place, the American people may have little power to reverse it.
The State of the Union speech highlighted what is, in part, wrong with our government; there is no accountability. The branches are out of balance, and they do not cooperate. Now, the President seeks to bypass the people whom we elected to represent us. If now isn’t the time to worry about corruption in government, I do not know when would be.