If you immerse yourself in current politics, you have likely noticed the strife between the Republican and Democratic parties. From the open belittling of one another to riots and even the GOP’s recent attempt at storming the capitol, it is hard to deny the polarization in American politics. This discord has allowed the continuation of a deeply concerning abuse of our system: the abuse and misuse of executive orders and the subsequent overexertion of presidential power.
An executive order is a directive issued by the president to guide the operations of the federal government. Generally, an executive order holds the same weight as a law passed by the legislative branch. Since his inauguration just a month ago, President Joe Biden has issued 32 executive orders. This amount surpasses the former record for most executive orders issued in the first month of a presidency, previously held by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The amount and purpose of Biden’s orders, as well as those of other recent presidents, go against the entire purpose of executive orders.
Biden’s actions are not excusable simply because they are for the betterment of the country. It doesn’t matter what the executive orders were geared toward. Even if the orders are declared with good intention, the reckless usage of this presidential power is a double-edged sword that allows for any president to enforce their ideas into the country without checks and balances. Of course, some might be inclined to say that the Supreme Court can declare an executive order unconstitutional and, to a point, they would be correct. Currently, there is a 6-3 majority of conservative-leaning justices. We will likely see some pushback if Biden overreaches his power; however, this will not always be the case. James Madison famously stated in his Federalist No. 51 that “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.” He couldn’t be more right. If there is an opposing ambition to keep one branch of government from overextending, then you can expect to see those powers exercised. If there is no opposition, you can assume there will be no action taken to keep powers in check.
When writing about his thoughts on a new government in 1776, John Adams wrote, “That, as a republic is the best of governments, so that particular arrangements of the powers of society, or, in other words, that form of government which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of the laws, is the best of republics.” To a degree, he is exactly right. When a republic is made to secure impartial execution of laws is when it shines the brightest. However, that is not what has been happening lately. While the Founding Fathers used executive orders very rarely, most presidents today use hundreds. If you were to add up all the executive orders of the first five presidents you would get 15, compared to the 17 Biden issued within his first day.
The question then arises of what the president should be allowed to use executive orders for. I wouldn’t say that the executive branch should be stripped of all power. Alexander Hamilton states in his Federalist Paper No. 70, “A feeble executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever may be its theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.” A president is the face of the American government and its power. I believe executive orders should have an explicit and precise definition added as an amendment to the constitution. Congress could still overturn an executive order, but that is typically dependent on which party currently holds the majority in Congress. Having a definition that limits executive orders and helps guide the law as intended by the Founding Fathers would keep the president from abusing their power.