Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What a Week It’s Been

Assign your students the challenge of identifying the constitutional authority for the president’s first actions in office.

During President Obama’s first week in office he has turned a number of his campaign promises into reality. Just hours after delivering his inaugural address, the President issued his first proclamation, designating January 20 A National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation.

Does the Constitution explicitly grant the President authority to make proclamations?

On his first full day as President, Obama signed two executive orders: one granting greater authority to the National Archives and Records Administration to disclose presidential records; and another which subjects all executive branch personnel to a set of ethics commitments, including a lobbyist gift ban and a revolving door ban.

On January 22, three more executive orders followed from the President’s pen. The first ensures for a speedy close to the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay and disposition of the detainees held there. The second creates a Special Interagency Task Force to review detention policy options of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations. The third sets new standards and practices for interrogation of individuals in the custody or control of the United States in armed conflicts, requires the CIA to close all detention facilities that it operates and requires federal government agencies to inform the Red Cross of any detainees held by the U.S. Government, among other provisions.

Does the Constitution explicitly grant the President authority to issue executive orders?

In addition, 19 nominations for cabinet positions were sent to the Senate this week for confirmation hearings.

Where is the constitutional connection for nominating an executive cabinet?


  1. Obama's decision to shut down Gitmo is one that I applaud, but the power of Executive Orders is something that concerns me. What happens if the President issues orders like FDR did by creating things like internment camps for the Japanese. There is a slippery slope there.

  2. I would like to see the record on the number of executive orders (if any) of the first five presidents issued during their administrations. It would seem to me that the unquestioning manner in which executive orders are readily put into action would be a usurpation of power and predicted practice that the anti-Federalist warned about during the ratification debate. Would the “Founding Fathers” and Federalist even recognize the executive branch today?

    Still executive orders are only as powerful and pertinent as Congress (our elected officials!) permits them to be! Legislation can always be crafted to “correct” or improve any executive order. Generally, Congress just sits back and is content to let the President (for the People?) lead instead of leading in the name of the People that have elected them.

    A strong executive branch was envisioned by the Founding Fathers but not at the cost of power and influence being stripped and removed from “We the People”.