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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

President’s use of executive orders is necessary to combat partisan Congress

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s recent criticism of President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders is removed from reality.

The outcry stems from the recent State of the Union address where the president promised to establish a higher minimum wage for federally contracted workers without legislative action.

“We have an increasingly lawless presidency,” said Ryan.

Many citizens, including Ryan, think this subverts the system, undermining the fact Congress is the body that passes legislation, not the White House.

“He’s going the wrong approach,” said first-year Cassidy Bennett, a member of Young Americans for Liberty. “He’s working without (Congress) when he should be working together.”

But the proposed minimum wage hike is not exactly “lawless.”

“The laws are always vaguer than the rules implemented,” said Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science Maria Rosales. “The president can say, ‘A law means this.’”

Using an executive order to craft how existing legislation is enforced is perfectly acceptable.

Every president except William Henry Harrison — who died a month into his term — has at one time or another made an executive order.

A simple fact check finds that the 168 executive orders Obama has made pales in comparison to the 3,522 Franklin Roosevelt authorized. Recent two-term presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush sanctioned 381, 364 and 291 executive orders, respectively.

“It’s not the number of executive orders; it’s the scope,” said Ryan to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

That is a fair point.

All presidents, from time to time, have overstepped their bounds. Ryan has just greatly exaggerated the extent of Obama’s actions, repeating a talking point that tries to paint them as abnormal.

To avoid cherry-picking the contents of each executive order Obama has made, all publicly available through The American Presidency Project web archive, I will just make something clear: these executive orders can be misused.

Executive Order 9066 prescribed the interment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus via executive order in 1861.

There is no indication, however, that President Obama has authorized anything remotely as illegal or questionable.

If Paul Ryan wants to pursue the president for wielding power in a “lawless” manner, he should note the increased use of drones during his term, slam him for illegal NSA information gathering or criticize some dubious recess appointments he made in 2012.

Just don’t try to portray his use of executive orders as a gross mishandling of power. Obama is doing his job.

If Congress takes issue with that, they should pass new laws that dictate explicitly what they want. But, with leaders like Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Harry Reid at the helm, I doubt that will happen.

Only one percent of bills have been passed this congressional term, putting the current Congress in contention for being the least productive of all time. Perhaps there is still time to reverse course.

“Congress should focus on the country,” said junior Patrick Withrow.

Instead of complaining about President Obama doing his job and getting things done, maybe Paul Ryan should do his.

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About the Contributor
Ian Penny, World & Nation Editor


Economics and German studies double major, Writing minor

Ian enjoys simple things like Cook Out quesadillas with Reese’s Cup milkshakes. When not writing or studying, he whips a golf cart around campus working for Conferences and Events.

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