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Executive order s provide presidents with the unilateral authority to make decisions and, in many cases, law. The power to hand down executive orders, although not specifically stated in the U.S. Constitution, is implied through its grant of executive power to presidents and its requirement that laws be “faithfully executed.” In executing their duties, all presidents have issued executive orders to control and guide executive branch agencies and departments. Congressional authorization is not required, but executive orders provide the same authority as laws passed by Congress and can be controversial.
Presidents have used executive orders to desegregate the military and schools and to end racial discrimination in federal housing and hiring. Congress provides the president with a considerable amount of discretion in executing laws, and, in many cases, Congress is not explicit as to how a law or program should be implemented. Therefore, presidents fill in the gaps and provide details for their execution by issuing executive orders. However, a president’s actions are still checked. Executive orders can be overturned by the president or made invalid by the passage of a law. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court can declare executive orders unconstitutional.
- Mayer, Kenneth R. With the Stroke of a Pen: Executive requests and Presidential Power. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002.
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