In the US legislative system, most laws are passed through congress (as an Act of Congress) and signed into law by the President. There are exceptions though. The President is permitted to sign in Federal laws bypassing Congress under certain circumstances: examples include if the law is constitutional he can pass it through a Grant of Discretion by Congress. They can be struck down if a judge decides they are unconstitutional. Here is a list of some of the most famous Executive orders in the history of the USA.
1. Executive Order 7034
The New Deal was designed to get America working again after the worst economic crisis in its history. With business stalling and many going out of business, this Executive Order created the WPA (Works Progress Administration) which employed millions of unemployed people ‘ mostly men without skills – to work on public projects such as government buildings and roads. Thanks to the agency, almost every town in the USA had a new library, park, bridge or school. At its peak it employed an enormous three million people
2. Executive Order 9835
Harry S. Truman went down in history as the man who began the process of paranoia of Communism thanks to this Executive Order from 1947. This is the infamous ‘Loyalty Order’ that he sought to win public approval for the Cold War and to put in place measures to prevent ‘Communist Influence’ gaining power with the Federal employee base. As a Democrat, he had been accused of going soft on Communism. Realising that a witch hunt might ensue, he used the Order to enact limits on the FBI’s powers
3. Executive Order 10834
The US Flag changed several times during the course of the young country’s history. Initially 13 stars and 13 stripes, this Executive Order enacted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower standardised the design of the flag and how it might change in future. With each new state added to the Union, an extra star would be added to the existing design. It also made provisions for what size flags could be sold and even the height of each strip, the shade of the blue background and they layout of the stars
4. Executive Order 11129
One of Lyndon B. Johnson’s first Executive Orders related to honouring the recently deceased President Kennedy for his support and enthusiasm for the Space Program. During his life, JFK made the public address of going to the moon and ‘doing the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard’. Johnson signed in 11129 which renamed NASA’s Launch Operation Center on Cape Canaveral to Kennedy Space Center. He signed in it early into his Presidency in 1963 and the name took effect shortly before Christmas
5. Executive Order 11478
There were many acts and Executive Orders on the road of the Civil Rights movement. The process began under JFK continued under Lyndon B. Johnson. 11478 is one of the later Executive Orders and it was enacted by Richard Nixon. It banned all discrimination based on religion, colour, creed, race and even disability within the competitive services of the USA ‘ this included the military, police, fire service and the US Postal Service. The Federal Women’s Program was later added as part of the EEOC.
6. Executive Order 12148
With a growing environmental movement and to make national provisions for emergency relief to centralise action, President Jimmy Carter enacted EO 12148 to establish the now famous FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). There were already several separate groups focussing on specific areas but they were unified to create FEMA. Most importantly, it removed cabinet interference and spread its management over several agencies. The organisation could become the supreme agency in any area at any time when the President officially declares a disaster (flooding, earthquakes etc)
7. Executive Order 12744
The most important EO to the commencement of the Gulf War, the UN response to Saddam Hussein’s illegal invasion of Kuwait, was this law enacted by George Bush Snr. It officially designated The Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, The Gulf of Oman, a portion of the Arabian Sea, The Gulf of Aden and the total land area of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE as an official warzone. This Order signed into effect the beginning of the war on 17th January 1991
8. Executive Order 13110
It was believed for many decades that a good number of Nazi War Criminals had fled to the allied countries of the UK, USA and USSR in order to seek sanctuary and use Nazi research as a bargaining tool preventing their prosecution. Those national governments had known for years that their borders harboured those criminals. This Order enacted by Bill Clinton sought to make public details of known Nazi War Criminals within the borders of the USA and to release government records for public examination. An Advisory Board to locate known criminals was also established.
9. Executive Order 13435
Despite his Christian beliefs, President George W. Bush had taken advisement regarding stem cell research and passed it into law. This created a wave of controversy amongst the conservative Christian base that had given him support over the years. However, the law did not just permit the establishment of research, it dealt heavily in defining criteria for the ethical methods by which stem cells might be obtained. It also defined that by the end of each year the Secretary of Health and Human Services should have a meeting with the President to discuss research and progress
10. Executive Order 13653
President Obama was never going to win over the conservative base that is his political opposition but this order would only fuel the dislike even more. As the first President to formally and openly recognise the global impact of climate change, this Executive Order is for ‘undertaking actions to enhance climate preparedness and resilience’. It sought to reorganise agencies, remove barriers to potential adaptations that local and state communities might enact. Finally, it sought to channel government funding into research for a greener world.
The above laws represent some of the most significant acts by Presidents of the USA. Some of them have led to sweeping changes in the country for better or for worse. From the New Deal up to President Obama’s Executive Order on Climate Change, each President felt they could make a different to the betterment of the country.