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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Make it so

What the king decrees, the king can undo:

President-elect Barack Obama is poised to move swiftly to reverse actions that President Bush took using executive authority, and his transition team is reviewing limits on stem-cell research and the expansion of oil and gas drilling, among other issues, members of the team said Sunday.

While Obama prepared to make his first post-election visit to the White House today, his advisers were compiling a list of policies that could be reversed by the executive powers of the new president. The assessment is under way, aides said, but a full list of policies to be overturned will not be announced by Obama until he confers with new members of his cabinet.

"There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that," John Podesta, a top transition leader, said Sunday. "

Without congressional action? Ya think? A lot of people will debate specific executive orders, but the bigger issue is how we've allowed our chief executive to have so much power. Though George W. Bush has been astonishingly profligate with the executive order, its use goes all the way back to George Washington. It has been employed to do some really big things. The Louisiana Purchase was done by EO. The creation of the Peace Corps was by EO, as was Homeland Security. FDR used an executive order to intern Americans of Japanese ancestry, and Truman used one to desegregate the armed forces. Though the Constitution doesn't really authorize executive orders, the Supreme Court has overturned only two of them, including Truman's attempt to nationalize the steel industry.

We've even gone to war on executive orders. Presidents have gone through the formality of getting authorizing congressional resolutions, but who says they have to? The Constitution -- that old thing?


Tue, 11/11/2008 - 11:23am

On the upside, with Obama in power, I expect conservatives to suddenly remember they are in favor of restraints on executive power.

Leo Morris
Tue, 11/11/2008 - 11:24am

And liberals will remember that, hey, deficits aren't so darned bad!