The True Scorecard on Executive Orders

The True Scorecard on Executive Orders

Rand Paul famously vowed to repeal every executive order Obama passed if elected. While that may have been a bit of political hyperbole, Paul’s objections are well-founded. Obama has used executive orders to carve a staggering amount of power from the legislative branch of government in recent years.

As Paul’s aide noted, “Senator Paul’s statement was meant to emphasize this president’s overt and unconstitutional executive orders, it was not meant to be taken literally.” (Huffington Post)

Now, I am well aware of the counter-argument. Obama has passed less executive orders than Bush. Indeed, he’s passed fewer than many presidents before him. It is true. But it’s also a ridiculous argument to make. No one has argued the number of executive orders Obama has passed. Rather, it is the content that has people on Capitol Hill concerned.

Executive orders have traditionally been used to pass narrow legislative actions that need swift, limited action. But Obama has redefined the scope of what executive action can be used for. He has used it to redefine his own legislation after passing Congressional approval (Obamacare) and he has used it in lieu of pursuing legitimate legislation from Congress (immigration reform).

And that is the central issue at hand. It isn’t that Obama has used executive orders, all presidents do. It is that he has begun using them to subsume legislative power – quietly and unofficially weakening an entire branch of government by usurping its authority. Notably, this has been Paul’s major issue with Obama’s use of his authority – not that he’s been passing laws that are wrong, but he has been passing them “wrongly”, avoiding the very fundamentals of how the national government does business constitutionally.

In New Hampshire, in a pub crowded with young voters, Paul explained to the Generation Opportunity audience that:

“Democracy is messy, but you have to build consensus to pass things. But it’s also in some ways good, because a lot of laws take away your freedom. So it should be hard to pass a law. And it, frankly, when you do it the proper way, is. We’ve done way too many things [the wrong way]: Signing statements, altering legislation by the president, are wrong and unconstitutional and shouldn’t happen. Executive orders shouldn’t either.” (Breitbart)

This is the crux of the issue, people. Paul’s call for change isn’t about conservative issues or liberal issues, it’s about democratic issues. Our Founders laid out three branches of government in an interwoven mesh of checks and balances to assure a true democracy. The abuse of executive powers threatens that balance. It doesn’t even matter if Obama’s actions and orders are well intentioned – the Road to Hell is paved with them, as the saying goes.

The messy, painful progress of Congressional legislation is vital to the strength of our democracy. That is the reminder and lesson to take away. It might not be pretty, but show me one healthy democracy on the planet that doesn’t have to go through this process. Obama’s fast track to enforcing his will, as well-meaning as it may (and I mean, may) be, nonetheless threatens the foundations of our system of democracy.

Do you support Paul in his stand for the democratic process and his fight against executive overreach? Let us know in the comments what you think about Rand’s thoughts on executive orders via Facebook or on Twitter.

Written by Mark Davis

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