Ask The Experts

Ask the experts: Professors analyze President Donald Trump’s executive orders

Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

In interviews, experts discussed the implications of such a large number of consequential executive orders being signed this early in Trump’s presidency and the outlook on whether the orders will end up stuck in the court system.

From freezing new hiring for the federal government to banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, President Donald Trump has signed 12 executive orders during his first month in office.

Obama, who signed an average of 35 executive orders per year, during his time in office issued the fewest amount of executive orders per year since former President Grover Cleveland, according to Mic Network Inc.

In interviews, experts discussed the implications of such a large number of consequential executive orders being signed this early in Trump’s presidency and the outlook on whether the orders will end up stuck in the court system.

One of Trump’s executive orders takes the first step at repealing Obama’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act. Margaret Thompson, an associate professor of history and political science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, said that even among Republicans who are critical of the law, there is disagreement over the recently signed order.

“You can’t repeal it unless you have something to replace it with,” Thompson said.

Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are struggling to make concrete alternative proposals to replace the existing health care law, according to Politico.

Trump also signed a controversial order on Jan. 27 preventing people from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the country for the next 90 days, and all refugee admissions for 120 days.

The order created chaos at airports nationwide, as some individuals who hold permanent resident status were not allowed to re-enter the country. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals eventually blocked the enforcement of the travel ban, upholding an earlier decision made by a federal judge in Seattle. After Trump’s setback, the president hinted that he is going to sign a new executive order, similar to the one he signed in late January.

Thompson said that with so many executive orders, she is certain that at least some of the orders will succeed and some that require congressional endorsement and legislation to be carried out will be implemented.

However, she also said sometimes people who initially support an executive order may see unforeseen consequences after the order is implemented.

Many of the executive orders might be appealed and will end up in the court system, where they could be stuck for years, especially if they go to the Supreme Court of the United States, Thompson added.

“In the case of the immigration ban, it was clear that there was a very immediate crisis,” she said, explaining why the appeal process of that particular executive order moved quickly.

Usually, the Department of Defense and Secretary of Defense handles issues related to national security, rather than a president issuing executive orders, said Robert Murrett, professor of practice, public administration and international affairs at the Maxwell School.

“My sense is that most of (Trump’s) predecessors probably had more of a vetting process for executive orders,” Murrett said.

Most of the executive orders will also eventually require congressional involvement and legislation, experts said.

Executive orders such as one of Trump’s that approves the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would need a significant appropriation of funds from Congress, Thompson said.

Murrett said every presidency has to make the decision to handle an issue with either executive orders or legislation, adding that he believes there’s “more traction, more enduring value” when legislation is involved rather than the use of executive orders.

“Probably the best thing any president can do is take into account the implications and part of government that will be affected,” Murrett said.

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