Starting the Conversation on Presidential Executive Orders

A President can use an executive order to advance an agenda and bypass Congress, creating a directive that carries the same weight as legislation.

In his first 100 days, President Biden has signed more executive orders than any U.S. president since FDR.

Download the PDF to get an overview of executive orders, their controversial nature, and start asking questions about the role they play in our system of checks and balances.

So Here’s the Question

At your next gathering or in a group chat, use these questions to spark a discussion:

  • How do executive orders affect the system of checks and balances?
  • How does the use of executive orders affect the need for bi-partisanship?
  • Does it mean more when legislation comes from Congress to the President to sign, or does it matter?
  • If you were President, what three executive orders would you sign?
  • Unlike legislation that comes out of Congress, which has been debated in an open forum, should there be more transparency in the deliberation of executive orders?
  • Since legislation goes to the President to sign, should executive orders go to Congress to vote on? Why or why not?

Something to Consider

Here’s what people are saying either supporting or opposing executive orders. We’ve intentionally left out the commenters’ names so you can focus on the viewpoint itself, not the speaker’s affiliations

Why Is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?”

The country wasn’t based on executive orders.”

Most candidates don’t realize the utility of executive actions while campaigning.”

When they become president, they quickly gain an appreciation of how difficult it is to get things done in government.”

We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.”

And I want to make it clear — there’s a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders that I have signed — I’m not making new law; I’m eliminating bad policy.”

For Deeper Exploration

Looking for more? These resources will help you:

The American Presidency Project: The full list of executive orders
National Archives: Federal Register