Ruling by decree is a form of governance where one individual, or a group of individuals, creates law by issuing quick and unchallenged directives. It is the form of government typically used by dictators or absolute monarchs. The United States is supposed to be governed by the three branches of government: the executive branch – Donald Trump – that is supposed to enforce the law legislated by the second branch of government – Congress – and a third branch – the Judiciary – that acts as the arbiter of the constitutionality of the other two branches.
As of today, Donald Trump has been at work for about 188 days. Trump promised many quick and decisive legislative actions to his constituency. Among them was border security – in the form of The Wall and restrictive immigration policies – and the repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare. Trump’s promise to rescind the Dreamer’s, or DACA executive order and the repeal of ObamaCare demonstrates how Trump is ruling as an elected monarch
DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was enacted via an executive order, or executive action, by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. On September 5, 2017, Trump cancelled DACA. Trump’s cancelling of Obama’s executive order, granting certain undocumented immigrants reprieve from deportation, demonstrates how limiting executive orders are in the U.S. Basically, an executive order is subject to be overwritten by a new administration, making them temporary legislation at best.
Executive Orders are simply temporary orders from the sitting president.
On the other hand, legislation enacted by Congress and signed by the sitting president has longevity inherent to it. ObamaCare is a prime example of this. As much as the Republicans have been promising to repeal ObamaCare and Trump’s promise to repeal it on the first day, demonstrates that legislation passed by Congress and signed by a president has longevity and is not easily disposed of.
Twice, the current Congress has attempted to repeal ObamaCare and both times it has failed. Trump’s temporary orders, or executive orders are temporary and will likely be cancelled by the incoming administration.
Donald Trump has yet to successfully propose and have the Republican-controlled Congress enact any meaningful legislation. In other words, as of today, Donald Trump has been ruling the country by decree.
And it doesn’t seem like that is going to change anytime soon.
Yesterday, Trump indicated that he was going to use “the power of the pen” to fix the healthcare problem. The Trump administration seems to be accepting that the only way it will accomplish any of its promises is by unilaterally implementing legislation through executive orders.
As executive orders and as amply demonstrated by DACA, they are temporary orders that will likely be cancelled as a new administration takes over.
Most interesting is that Trump’s predecessor was criticized for using an executive order to protect the Dreamers from deportation. The Republicans asked a simple, yet poignant question – does the president have the authority to rule by executive decree?
It is an important constitutional question.
Both sides of the political isles argue that Congress is gridlocked to the point that meaningful legislation is impossible. But, the question then becomes, does either party trust a president from the other party to rule equitably?
In the case of Barack Obama’s DACA order, the Congress failed to enact immigration reform. As a result, Obama, although previously arguing that he was not a “king” and thus could not enact immigration reform, went ahead, nonetheless, and issued the executive order for DACA. James Madison argued that the new republic required three branches of government to safeguard it from the “accumulation of all powers” in one hand.
Executive orders rests power in one hand – the president.
But it is not only Trump who is usurping the intent of the separation of powers. The judiciary has been accused over the last few years of judicial activism – issuing rulings not in keeping with the constitution but to correct a perceived wrong, or inequality. Congress should be legislating and the other two branches of government should be enforcing the legislation, in the case of Trump, and ensuring that the legislation meets the standards of the constitution, in the case of the judiciary.
That is not happening. Instead, Donald Trump has relied on executive orders to enact legislation.
Ultimately, the question that U.S. voters should ask themselves – is the United States on the verge of becoming an elected monarchy, or has it already become one?