A year before his swearing in as President, Trump vowed that he would go after what he called then-President Obama's executive orders. Or, as he crudely put it, his "illegal and overreaching executive orders." He repeatedly came back to that threat on the campaign trail, echoing the standard GOP hit line that Obama supposedly went way overboard and usurped his presidential authority by using his pen to make law. On day one of his swearing in, he wasted no time in doing exactly what he told an interviewer he'd do.
His first act was to sign an executive order nailing the one law above all others that he made a campaign mantra to nail, that is Obamacare. His executive order directs agencies to "waive, defer, grant exemptions" to any part of Obamacare they choose. Getting rid of many of Obama's executive orders won't be so easy. Some are firmly ensconced as law and will require extensive public comment, hearings and review. That's a long, tedious, drawn-out process. Others have been in place long enough that government agencies have made them part of their compliance requirements.
Still, nothing, and I mean nothing, drove GOP leaders to fits of anger faster than Obama's touch of his pen to an executive order. They were hot because he had the power to wield the executive pen in defiance of, and as an end around, every congressional roadblock and obstacle they tossed up to block any and everything that he proposed in his second term. And because his executive orders had the force of law behind them. So, for instance, when there was zero possibility of getting even the faintest, most tepid, gun control measure through Congress, Obama signed a few executive orders that put some peripheral checks on gun sales. In all, Obama, signed a couple hundred orders.
That was more than enough for the GOP to threaten to file lawsuits and even drop loud hints that his actions may even warrant impeachment.
The GOP's hysterical ire at Obama wasn't lost on Trump. There was absolutely no doubt that he'd move with breakneck speed to hit back, and hit back hard, at Obama by going after his executive orders.
Conservative advocacy groups and GOP leaders had a dizzying array of Obama's executive orders that they demand be immediately wiped off the books. Clean power plant regulations, transgender bathrooms, overtime pay for federal contracted work, immigration restrictions easing, and the gun control orders were high on their hit list. In fact, every single one of Obama's executive orders has been listed, checked off, and targeted for "review" by Trump. Some may survive, but many won't, and among the many will be those such as gun control, environmental, immigration and workplace controls that will soon become ancient history.
Despite the GOP's rage at Obama for wielding his executive pen, the truth is that he was near the bottom on the list of presidents in the number of executive orders issued. The last president that issued orders at a lower rate than Obama was Grover Cleveland. GOP Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush issued far more executive orders per day in office than Obama. It's not really the number or rate of executive orders, however, that Obama has issued that has raised the hackles of the GOP. It's the executive orders that he issued that gave the GOP ammunition to attempt to intimidate and politically bash Obama.
Now that Obama is out of office, Trump and the GOP's frontal attack on his executive orders is much more than an angry and indignant party going after executive orders it didn't like, or restoring what it considers its proper congressional lawmaking authority. It's revenge, pure and simple, against a former president's legacy. Much of that legacy is intertwined with his willingness to use the power of his office whenever and wherever he thought he could to frontally challenge the GOP to cease its relentless, dogged, and destructive campaign of dither, delay, denial, and obstructionism to anything that had the White House stamp on it. The executive orders on gun control were a textbook example of that. Another was the executive order that required prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and give federal agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts. This was a measure that was long past due given both the rampant nepotism, cronyism, game-playing and outright racial and gender discrimination by an untold number of businesses that grab federal contracts.
These two orders drove home that Obama was determined to make a lasting mark by using federal power in the fight against the gun-related carnage that wracked the nation as well as the blatant racial and gender bias in the workplace. The executive orders on environmental, immigration, and LGBT issues were also landmark measures that would have lasting imprint for his administration. This is what is anathema to Trump and the GOP and this is why they must go.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of The End of Obamacare 2? Amazon Kindle. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.