US Presidential executive action

31-03-2017

Since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States in January 2017, he has fulfilled several of his campaign promises by signing executive orders (EOs) and memoranda. These executive actions have raised questions, including what actions the President may legally and unilaterally take, for what purposes the President may use his executive authority, and what he can actually do without passing through Congress. Although the data are not comprehensive, as not all presidential actions have to be published, a historical perspective may help to give insight into how US Presidents have used their executive authority. It appears that since George Washington, all Presidents have, to different extents, made use of their executive authority to advance their policy views and organise their administration. Unilateral Presidential policy-making has raised tensions, in particular with Congress, to which the US Constitution confers all legislative powers. President Barack Obama was heavily criticised by his opponents for advancing his policy goals without Congress and by signing executive orders (making policy with the 'stroke of a pen'). Despite a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, President Trump appears to be following the same pattern. He signed two executive orders on the day of his inauguration and other presidential actions have followed, including a presidential memorandum to withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). However, to date, the most controversial EO introduced temporary measures restricting entry to the country for refugees and citizens from seven countries defined as of 'particular concern' on national security grounds. The order led to massive protests in the US and across the world, was challenged in court, and was finally temporarily put on hold nationwide by a federal judge. On 6 March, President Trump signed a new EO revoking the contested one and introducing new measures, limiting immigration from six of the countries. But this EO too has run into legal hurdles.

Since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States in January 2017, he has fulfilled several of his campaign promises by signing executive orders (EOs) and memoranda. These executive actions have raised questions, including what actions the President may legally and unilaterally take, for what purposes the President may use his executive authority, and what he can actually do without passing through Congress. Although the data are not comprehensive, as not all presidential actions have to be published, a historical perspective may help to give insight into how US Presidents have used their executive authority. It appears that since George Washington, all Presidents have, to different extents, made use of their executive authority to advance their policy views and organise their administration. Unilateral Presidential policy-making has raised tensions, in particular with Congress, to which the US Constitution confers all legislative powers. President Barack Obama was heavily criticised by his opponents for advancing his policy goals without Congress and by signing executive orders (making policy with the 'stroke of a pen'). Despite a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, President Trump appears to be following the same pattern. He signed two executive orders on the day of his inauguration and other presidential actions have followed, including a presidential memorandum to withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). However, to date, the most controversial EO introduced temporary measures restricting entry to the country for refugees and citizens from seven countries defined as of 'particular concern' on national security grounds. The order led to massive protests in the US and across the world, was challenged in court, and was finally temporarily put on hold nationwide by a federal judge. On 6 March, President Trump signed a new EO revoking the contested one and introducing new measures, limiting immigration from six of the countries. But this EO too has run into legal hurdles.