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City of Brass

City of Brass

The Obama mandate: executive order

I argued earlier that the evidence for an Obama mandate is compelling, especially in comparison to President Bush, who claimed a mandate and political capital after the 2004 election. Some may ask why a mandate matters, or that the margin of victory is irrelevant; I think that there’s a great example that illustrates the importance of a mandate is permitting a President to enact an agenda, and that example is Executive Orders (EOs). EOs are basically directives by the president to the various Executive Branch agencies – such as the various departments headed by the Cabinet – tellingt them what to do and how to do it. These departments include the EPA, Housing, Education, IRS, etc – in other words, government agencies that play a major role in public policy and our daily lives. And none of these require any Congressional oversight, since they are purely Executive Branch functions.

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Obama has indicated that he intends to make heavy use of EOs, to undo much of the damage done by President Bush, especially in the enironmental arena and in stem cell research:

President-elect Obama plans to use his executive powers to make an immediate impact when he takes office, perhaps reversing Bush administration policies on stem cell research and domestic drilling for oil and natural gas.

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John Podesta, Obama’s transition chief, said Sunday Obama is reviewing President Bush‘s executive orders
on those issues and others as he works to undo policies enacted during
eight years of Republican rule. He said the president can use such
orders to move quickly on his own.

“There’s
a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without
waiting for congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president
do that,” Podesta said. “I think that he feels like he has a real
mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set.”

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[…]

Presidents long have used executive orders
to impose policy and set priorities. One of Bush’s first acts was to
reinstate full abortion restrictions on U.S. overseas aid. The
restrictions were first ordered by President Reagan and the first President Bush followed suit. President Clinton lifted them soon after he occupied the Oval Office and it wouldn’t be surprising if Obama did the same.

Executive orders “have the power of law and they can cover just about anything,” Tobias said in a telephone interview.

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Bush used his executive power to limit federal spending on embryonic stem cell research,
a position championed by opponents of abortion rights who argue that
destroying embryos is akin to killing a fetus. Obama has supported the
research in an effort to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Many moderate Republicans also support the research, giving it the
stamp of bipartisanship.

On drilling, the federal Bureau of Land Management is opening about 360,000 acres of public land in Utah to oil and gas drilling. Bush administration officials argue that the drilling will not harm sensitive areas; environmentalists oppose it.

It’s Obama’s mandate from the people that gives him the confidence to move quickly and decisively on these.

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