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Checks Without Balance

February 17, 2013 - Joselyn King
This week, President Barack Obama said if Congress fails to pass climate control legislation soon, we will seek to enact it by "executive order" -- a discretionary act deemed necessary by the president that has the full force of law.

Civics class taught us there are three branches to American government -- the executive, the legislative and the judicial -- and their role is to keep watch over each other and uphold the expressed intent of the U.S. Constitution.

In short, each of the branches has its own leaves of designated responsibilities: the legislative branch, Congress, makes the laws; the judicial branch, the Supreme Court, makes certain the laws don't infringe upon the constitutional rights of citizens; and the executive branch -- the president -- makes sure the laws are enforced. To assure the latter is accomplished, the president is backed up by the U.S. military, over which he or serves as commander -in-chief.

So now, just what is this "executive order" provision? If Congress is reluctant to pass a law the president wants and the president doesn't get his way, seems the president can just go ahead and enact it and disrespect the other two branches. (Remember, the president has the guns of the U.S. military behind him.)

It appears to be a very dangerous route for the American presidency to take.


Article Comments



Feb-25-13 11:00 PM

you've got a selective memory. you weren't writing these when Bush was signing just as many executive orders. you're a fraud, and I hope you know it.

otherwise, are you suggesting that Obama is going to use the army to do his bidding? clownish and irresponsible. The Judiciary acts as the check in the case of an executive order. keep towing that tired party line.


Feb-23-13 6:40 AM

I don't agree with "executive orders", but they are nothing new. G.W. Bush ordered 291, Clinton 364, and the beloved Ronald Reagan issued 381 and George Washington issued the first one. Just like the filibuster, executive orders are no doubt abused. But guess what? There ain't a dang thing you or I can do about them.


Feb-17-13 7:17 PM

Obama already has demonstrated he doesn't care what the law is. He ignores it, just as he ignores court orders. He doesn't care what the other branches of government say. Welcome to Venezuela.


Feb-17-13 2:43 PM

Ms. King:

This column is premised on a misunderstanding of what "executive orders" do, and what remedies the other two branches of government have in dealing with them. While substance-wise, the whole of the column is deficient, the statements in the last two paragraphs lead me to should have failed civics class. If the President overreaches with an executive order, Congress can "veto" it by passing a law. So can courts, by overturning it. "Executive orders" exist as statutory gap fillers -- like rules and regulations promulgated by agencies -- which are also arms of the executive. If Congress or the Courts believe the President acted outside of his powers, the two co-equal branches have remedies other than armed conflict.

People -- especially writers -- have a moral obligation to be intelligent.


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