In his State of the Union Address, President Obama said, if Congress continues to “gridlock” his agenda, he would invoke his inherent powers and issue executive orders. Shouts of impeachment rang out in the GOP-controlled House!
Laws are made almost exclusively by legislation originated as acts of Congress; such acts are either signed into law by the president or passed into law by Congress after a presidential veto. However, presidents can issue orders, which have the force of law.
All presidents invoked this power except William Henry Harrison, our ninth president. John Adams, James Madison and John Monroe each issued only one. The three highest were Teddy Roosevelt (1,081), Woodrow Wilson (1,803) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (3,522).
Here are samples of presidential orders: Wilson provided conditions for employment for the Panama Canal. John F. Kennedy created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Jimmy Carter established the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Ronald Reagan created the president’s commission on the HIV epidemic. Obama signed on Feb. 12 an executive order that requires federal contractors to raise their minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10, effective in 2015.
Readers, for your information, the numbers of executive orders by our last three presidents are: Bill Clinton (364), George W. Bush (291) — and, for the past five years, Obama (169).