Understanding Executive Orders

Understanding Executive Orders

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An executive order is an official document through which the president of the United States manages the operations of the federal government. There is no specific provision in the Constitution that permits executive orders; there is a “grant of executive power” given in Article II of the Constitution. This originally only included administrative instructions or policies that affected federal departments and agencies, such as a change in domestic policy or the decision to go to war.

Over time, however, the federal courts began to uphold these as being as legally binding as legislation by Congress. Most executive orders stem from the president’s desire to bypass Congress. Congress is not required to approve any executive order, nor can it overturn an order.

Jayme MacCullough, The Chain of Liberty

Additionally, every President since George Washington (with the exception of Harrison) has issued executive orders, most notably in times of war.  Congress has the power to overturn an executive order by passing legislation in conflict with it or refuse to provide funding. The President can veto, however, Congress can override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote.

Because Presidents aren’t bound by the decisions of their predecessors, they have the authority to rescind executive orders made by previous administrations.