What is an executive order?

The powers of the president of the United States are spelled out in the Constitution. He is the head of the Executive Branch of government, and, along with other roles, he is commander in chief of the armed services.

However, one of the powers a president can use that falls in a more gray area is that of executive order. It is not legislation, yet it can bring about policy changes in the country.

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What is an executive order and how do presidents use them?

Here’s a look at how they work.

What is an executive order?

Executive orders are legally binding directives issued by the president to federal administrative agencies.

How can a president just issue an order?

Article II of the Constitution contains a praise that allows presidents a "grant of executive power.” Presidents use that term, along with other powers enumerated in the Constitution, to issue the orders. Many of the orders have to do with the military. For instance, an executive order can be used to send troops to war. The president is commander and chief of the armed forces.

Have many presidents issued executive orders?

Every president with the exception of William Henry Harrison have issued executive orders. Since 1789, according to the American Presidency Project, 13,766 executive orders have been issued.

Why do they do that?

An executive order is generally issued when the president cannot get the help of the Congress to do something he wants done. For instance, in 1948, President Harry Truman issued an executive order to integrate the armed forces. In 1942, Franklin Roosevelt issued one that led to the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

What if the next president doesn’t like an executive order, can he or she get rid of it?

Yes, future presidents can get rid of executive orders they don’t favor. A future president simply has to sign an order rescinding it.

Can any other branch of government get rid of them?

Yes, the Judicial branch can.

Only two executive orders – out of more than 13,000 – have been overturned by the Supreme CourtBoth concerned striking workers. The first was an order from Truman that placed all the country's steel mills under federal law. The order was meant to prevent strikes for higher wages during the Korean War. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the order invalid because it said the order was an attempt to make law.

The second order overturned by the Supreme Court was one signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 that prevented federal contracts with organizations that hire replacements for striking workers. The court ruled that it preempted the National Labor Relations Act, a law that says employers have the right to hire permanent replacements for striking workers.

Congress cannot revoke an executive order. They can try to curtail an executive order by cutting funding for it.

Which president has issued the most executive orders?

Franklin Roosevelt issued 3,728 executive orders.

What are some examples of executive orders?

The most famous executive order belongs to Abraham Lincoln. The Emancipation Proclamation, issued on Jan. 1, 1863, changed the federal legal status of more than 3 million people from "slave" to "free” in areas of the South.

Franklin Roosevelt declared a “bank holiday” on March 6, 1933. It forbade banks from releasing gold coin or bullion.

Dwight Eisenhower used an executive order to send troops to Little Rock, Ark., in 1957 to enforce the integration of Central High School.

Obama issued an executive order in 2012 that stopped the deportation of thousands of undocumented aliens who were brought to the United States as children.