This current campaign season has seen an interesting mix of commentary regarding the presidency and role of the presidency. After the September 12th CNN GOP debate, several classmates asked a professor about the creation and nature of Executive Orders and the limits of their jurisdiction. This inspired me to examine executive orders myself. Clearly, our modern presidents utilize Executive Orders for much more than “tak[ing] care that the Laws be faithfully executed”, the vague directive provided in Article II, Section, Clause 1 of the US Constitution. In the early stages of our republic, Executive Orders were not announced to the public- simply sent to the federal agency in question. In fact, the United States State Department only began numbering Executive Orders in the early 20th century leaving us with little information regarding early Executive Orders. On the other hand, Executive Orders today are instead used to forcefully integrate the armed forces (Truman) or establish Executive branch agencies as under Executive Order 13199 (Bush Jr) which established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
For my research question, I plan to explore the creation and evolution of modern Presidential Executive Orders. I firmly believe that this is more relevant than ever since the GOP candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have declared their intent to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with an executive order instead of a formal repeal of the law through Congress. This asks the larger question, what is the reach and constitutionality of executive orders? Although they have been issued since 1789, what is their legal definition? Did the Framers envision executive orders being used to make laws, as in Executive Order 9066 or 13233?
My early exploration of this topic led me to discover the book By order of the President- The use and abuse of Executive Direct Action by Dr. Philip Cooper at the University of Vermont. One notable statement from his book stated that “there has been virtually no significant policy area or level of government left untouched by the application of these presidential power tools.” I also discovered that no major Court decision since the 1952 ruling in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer has ever given an indication of the scope of and extant of the power of Executive Orders. Exploring the legal and historical usage of Executive orders will be essential to this research in order to discover and analyze thoroughly Executive Orders.