Wield Power Without Executive Orders
Ben Goad, TheHill.com
President Obama could wind up issuing fewer executive orders than any two-term president in a century, records show.
Obama has often exerted the power of his office in pursuit of his agenda, drawing charges from Republicans that he is acting like a "monarch" intent on destroying the Constitution's balance of powers.
But a review of the historical record shows Obama is on track to issue roughly the same number of executive orders as President George W. Bush, and fewer than President Clinton.
Comparing Obama's use of executive power to his predecessors is tricky, however, since presidents can wield their authority in a number of ways. His executive orders tell only part of the story, experts say.
"They're not the only measure of presidential assertion of authority," said Kenneth Mayer, a University of Wisconsin political science professor who has studied the presidency extensively. "He's actually been pretty aggressive on a number of fronts."
Instead of executive orders, Obama has enacted policy shifts through informal "executive actions" on issues like gun control, immigration and drone strikes overseas.
His 2011 decision to halt the deportations of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, for example, was communicated via a memo from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
"Clearly, she was acting as an instrument of the president," said Mayer, who penned a book on executive power entitled, "With the Stroke of a Pen."
That fact was not lost on Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who described the move as "an affront to the process of representative government."
"He's circumventing Congress with a directive he may not have the authority to execute," Grassley said at the time.
The administration argued that it had the power to enforce the new policy through prosecutorial discretion.
Obama is not the first president who has been accused of overstepping, especially when it comes to national security. Bush faced his own criticism after ordering warrantless wiretapping in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001.
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