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So what is an executive order?

Trinity University professor explains reach of an executive order

SAN ANTONIO – If you’ve watched, read, glanced at or scrolled through news headlines or your news feed lately, you’ve no doubt heard about the executive orders signed by President Donald Trump.

To some, they’ve been reason for nationwide outcry and protest.

To others, they’re signs of campaign promises being fulfilled.

No matter your stance, you may be left with questions about what an executive order really is and what kind of power it gives a president.

“I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about executive orders,” said David Crockett, Ph.D., professor and chair of Trinity University’s political science department.

So what is an executive order?

“The simplest thing to say is that executive orders are a formal directive by the president to the executive branch,” Crockett said.

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“They have the weight of law, but they don’t require congressional passage,” he said.

A law originates in Congress and ultimately needs the president's approval.

An executive order skips Congress and starts in the Oval Office.

Can an executive order be reversed?

"One way you can stop an executive order -- Congress can pass a law countermanding the executive order. Of course, that requires the president to sign the law, which he won’t. Which means you have to have a supermajority to override the president’s veto,” Crockett said. “That's why executive orders are really powerful.”

What's a big misconception about executive orders?

"People oftentimes think that executive orders are unconstitutional because there's nothing in the Constitution about it,” he added.

Crockett said, however, executive orders are perfectly legal as long as the order follows the law.

“They can be reversed by law, so it's not like they are set in stone,” Crockett said. “They're easily reversed by the next president or by the current president if he changes his mind.”

Also important to note: An executive order cannot reverse a law that's been passed by Congress.

According to the American Presidency Project, Trump signed six executive orders in his first 10 days in office.

President Barack Obama signed nine executive orders in his first 10 days in office back in 2009.


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