"Stroke of the pen. Law of the Land. Kinda cool." 
Paul Begala, former Clinton advisor, The New York Times, July 5, 1998
"We've switched the rules of the game. We're not trying to do anything legislatively."
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, The Washington Times, June 14, 1999
Executive Orders (EOs) are legally binding orders given by the President, acting as the head of the Executive Branch, to Federal Administrative Agencies. Executive Orders are generally used to direct federal agencies and officials in their execution of, or in lieu of, congressionally established laws or policies. However, in many instances they have been, and are, being used to guide agencies in directions contrary to congressional intent, or the Constitution.
Not all EOs are created equal. Proclamations, for example, are a special type of Executive Order that are generally ceremonial or symbolic, such as when the President declares National Take Your Child To Work Day. Another subset of Executive Orders are those concerned with national security or defense issues. These have generally been known as National Security Directives. Under the Clinton Administration, they have been termed "Presidential Decision Directives."
Executive Orders do not require Congressional approval to take effect, but they have the same legal weight as laws passed by Congress. They do not, nor are they required to, follow Constitutional law.  
The President's source of authority to issue Executive Orders can be found in the Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution which grants to the President the "executive Power." Section 3 of Article II further directs the President to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." To implement or execute the laws of the land, Presidents give direction and guidance to Executive Branch agencies and departments, often in the form of Executive Orders.
A Brief History and Examples
Executive Orders have been used by every chief executive since the time of George Washington. Most of these directives were unpublished and were only seen by the agencies involved. In the early 1900s, the State Department began numbering them; there are now over 13,000 numbered orders. Orders were retroactively numbered going back to 1862 when President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus (that would be the Constitution) and issued the Emancipation Proclamation by Executive Order. There are also many other Executive Orders that have not been numbered because they have been lost due to bad record-keeping. Such is not the problem today. All new Executive Orders are easily accessible (see below).
Many important policy changes have occurred through Executive Orders. Harry Truman integrated the armed forces under Executive Order. President Eisenhower used an EO to desegregate schools. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson used them to bar racial discrimination in federal housing, hiring, and contracting. President Reagan used an EO to bar the use of federal funds for advocating abortion. President Clinton reversed this order when he came into office.
President Clinton has come under fire for using the EO as a way to make policy without consulting the Republican Congress (see the quotes at the beginning of this article). Clinton has signed over 300 EOs since 1992. In one case, he designated 1.7 million acres of Southern Utah as the Grant Staircase - Escalante National Monument. He also designated a system of American Heritage Rivers and even fought a war with Yugoslavia under Executive Order.
Controversy
Executive Orders are controversial because they allow the President to make major decisions, even law, without the consent of Congress. This, of course, runs against the general logic of the Constitution. that no one should have power to act unilaterally. Nevertheless, Congress often gives the President considerable leeway in implementing and administering federal law and programs. Sometimes, Congress cannot agree exactly how to implement a law or program. In effect, this leaves the decision to the federal agencies involved and the President that stands at their head. When Congress fails to spell out in detail how a law is to be executed, it leaves the door open for the President to provide those details in the form of Executive Orders.
Congressional Recourse
If Congress does not like what the executive branch is doing, it has two main options. First, it may rewrite or amend a previous law, or spell it out in greater detail how the Executive Branch must act. Of course, the President has the right to veto the bill if he disagrees with it, so, in practice, a 2/3 majority if often required to override an Executive Order.
Congress is less likely to challenge EOs that deal with foreign policy, national defense, or the implementation and negotiation of treaties, as these are powers granted largely to the President by the Constitution. As the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the President is also considered the nation's "Chief Diplomat." In fact, given national security concerns, some defense or security related EOs (often called National Security Directives or Presidential Decision Directives) are not made public.
In addition to congressional recourse, Executive Orders can be challenged in court, usually on the grounds that the Order deviates from "congressional intent" or exceeds the President's constitutional powers. In one such notable instance, President Harry Truman, was rebuked by the Supreme Court for overstepping the bounds of presidential authority. After World War II, Truman seized control of steel mills across the nation in an effort to settle labor disputes. In response to a challenge of this action, the Supreme Court ruled that the seizure was unconstitutional and exceeded presidential powers because neither the Constitution or any statute authorized the President to seize private businesses to settle labor disputes. For the most part, however, the Court has been fairly tolerant of wide range of executive actions. This of course, assumes the courts are not now a part of the unconstitutional government.
The ultimate criticism of Executive Orders is that the runaway use of EOs could result in a President becoming a virtual dictator, capable of making major policy decisions without any congressional or judicial input. The following web sites contain articles arguing against the liberal use of Executive Orders by the President.
	•	The Impact of Executive Orders on the Legislative Process: Executive Lawmaking? William Olsen, Cato Institute
	•	Executive Orders A Blueprint for Dictatorship?
Executive Orders in the States
The use of Executive Orders is not just a presidential activity. They are also used by most state governors, who are the chief executives of their states. The following links will give you a feel for the types of Executive Orders used in a few states:
	•	Florida
	•	Pennsylvania
	•	Utah
One Executive Order and the death of a President...

President John F. Kennedy - The Federal Reserve and Executive Order 1110

On June 4, 1963, a little known attempt was made to strip the Federal Reserve Bank of its power to loan money to the government at interest. On that day President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order No. 11110 that returned to the U.S. government the power to issue currency, without going through the Federal Reserve. Mr. Kennedy's order gave the Treasury the power "to issue silver certificates against any silver bullion, silver, or standard silver dollars in the Treasury." This meant that for every ounce of silver in the U.S. Treasury's vault, the government could introduce new money into circulation. In all, Kennedy brought nearly $4.3 billion in U.S. notes into circulation. The ramifications of this bill are enormous.
With the stroke of a pen, Mr. Kennedy was on his way to putting the Federal Reserve Bank of New York out of business. If enough of these silver certificates were to come into circulation they would have eliminated the demand for Federal Reserve notes. This is because the silver certificates are backed by silver and the Federal Reserve notes are not backed by anything. Executive Order 11110 could have prevented the national debt from reaching its current level, because it would have given the gevernment the ability to repay its debt without going to the Federal Reserve and being charged interest in order to create the new money. Executive Order 11110 gave the U.S. the ability to create its own money backed by silver.
After Mr. Kennedy was assassinated just five months later, no more silver certificates were issued. The Final Call has learned that the Executive Order was never repealed by any U.S. President through an Executive Order and is still valid. Why then has no president utilized it? Virtually all of the nearly $6 trillion in debt has been created since 1963, and if a U.S. president had utilized Executive Order 11110 the debt would be nowhere near the current level. Perhaps the assassination of JFK was a warning to future presidents who would think to eliminate the U.S. debt by eliminating the Federal Reserve's control over the creation of money. Mr. Kennedy challenged the government of money by challenging the two most successful vehicles that have ever been used to drive up debt - war and the creation of money by a privately-owned central bank. His efforts to have all troops out of Vietnam by 1965 and Executive Order 11110 would have severely cut into the profits and control of the New York banking establishment. 
Executive Order 11110 AMENDMENT OF EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 10289
AS AMENDED, RELATING TO THE PERFORMANCE OF CERTAIN FUNCTIONS AFFECTING THE DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
By virtue of the authority vested in me by section 301 of title 3 of the United States Code, it is ordered as follows:
Section 1. Executive Order No. 10289 of September 19, 1951, as amended, is hereby further amended-
By adding at the end of paragraph 1 thereof the following subparagraph (j):

(j) The authority vested in the President by paragraph (b) of section 43 of the Act of May 12,1933, as amended (31 U.S.C.821(b)), to issue silver certificates against any silver bullion, silver, or standard silver dollars in the Treasury not then held for redemption of any outstanding silver certificates, to prescribe the denomination of such silver certificates, and to coin standard silver dollars and subsidiary silver currency for their redemption

and --
By revoking subparagraphs (b) and (c) of paragraph 2 thereof.
Sec. 2. The amendments made by this Order shall not affect any act done, or any right accruing or accrued or any suit or proceeding had or commenced in any civil or criminal cause prior to the date of this Order but all such liabilities shall continue and may be enforced as if said amendments had not been made.
John F. Kennedy The White House, June 4, 1963. 
Five months after defying the Federal reserve, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas...http://www.cato.org/testimony/ct-wo102799.htmlhttp://www.archives.gov/federal_register/executive_orders/disposition_tables.htmlhttp://www.myflorida.com/myflorida/government/laws/index.htmlhttp://www.oa.state.pa.us/oac/cwp/browse.asp?a=351&C=65245&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&PM=1&oacNav=%7C2095%7C2129%7C&dsftns=30232http://www.rules.utah.gov/info/govexord.htmhttp://www.federal-reserve.net/shapeimage_12_link_0shapeimage_12_link_1shapeimage_12_link_2shapeimage_12_link_3shapeimage_12_link_4shapeimage_12_link_5
 
What is an Executive Order?
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