by Countable | 3.20.17
President-Elect Donald Trump made repealing President Obama’s executive orders a central part of his campaign, and once he’s sworn in on January 20, 2017, he’ll have an opportunity to break out a pen and make good on those promises.
To be clear, no can say with complete certainty at this point which specific executive orders Trump will overturn once he’s in the White House. But we went through all of the 200+ executive orders that Obama has issued and picked out some of those that are among the most likely to be repealed or at least scrutinized when Trump takes office.
Presidents issue executive orders to give direction to the federal agencies that fall under the executive branch’s control in terms of how they implement the law. They have to cite where the authority to issue a particular executive order comes from — either through the Constitution or legislation passed by Congress — but as long as they pass legal muster, executive orders have the full force of law.
Executive orders are subject to judicial review, so if the courts find that the president has overstepped their authority in issuing a particular order, it can be struck down. But the easiest way for an incoming president to undo their predecessor’s work is by simply issuing an executive order of his own that repeals an existing order.
For example, 10 days after President Obama’s inauguration in 2009, he issued Executive Order 13497 to revoke President George W. Bush’s 2002 Executive Order 13258, which expanded the role of the vice president in reviewing and planning the administration’s regulatory goals. (Incidentally, Bush’s executive order heavily amended an earlier order (12866) issued by President Bill Clinton nine years before that).
Presidents can also take executive action in other ways. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created through a "presidential memorandum," while Obama’s Clean Power Plan came about because of a plan drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Because these cornerstones of Obama’s agenda came about through different processes, we’ll explain those in an upcoming piece. For now, back to the executive orders:
Just two days after taking office in 2009, President Obama issued a trio of executive orders to close the detention facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and curb "enhanced interrogation techniques." The orders (13491, 13492, 13493) called for the detention facility to be closed and for the government to assess other options for housing and trying detainees. It also prohibited U.S. personnel from using unapproved interrogation techniques, which he defined as torture.
Not only has President-Elect Trump said that he is going to keep the detention facility open, he has also said that he intends to "load it up with some bad dudes." Moreover, Trump has said that he’s not opposed to the use of waterboarding by U.S. forces and it has been suggested by his potential selection for CIA Director that the practice could return. This makes the likelihood of Obama’s Guantanamo Bay executive orders surviving long into Trump’s presidency practically nil.
During the last few years of his administration, Obama signed several executive orders related to federal contractors.
In February 2014, he issued one that set the minimum wage for all federal contractors at $10.10 per hour beginning in 2015 and established a process for increasing it over time. He then issued a July 2014 executive order to prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And in September 2015, Obama required all federal contractors to give their employees paid sick leave, allowing them to accrue up to seven days of paid sick leave annually.
Trump has called for shrinking the size of the federal workforce through attrition and opposes increases in the minimum wage, so he may look to undo the pay increase for government contractors (which exceeds the federal minimum wage) and reduce their benefits. Members of Congress have also tried to eliminate the executive order banning discrimination by contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, so the president-elect could face political pressure to undo it himself (though he hasn’t said he would do so).
In October 2009, President Obama issued an executive order that called on federal agencies to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Four years later in November 2013, he issued another that called for federal agencies to take steps to prepare the nation for the effects of and risks posed by climate change.
President-Elect Donald Trump has called fears over climate change overblown and opposes limits on carbon emissions, so President Obama’s executive orders on the subject probably have the same odds of survival as a snowball on a warm summer day.
Your lawmakers have the ability to pass bills to block executive orders or make them into law so that they can’t be undone with the stroke of a new president’s pen. They also have authority over the funding that gets provided or withheld for these policies to the extent that federal funds are used, so make sure they hear your voice by using the "Take Action" button.
— Eric Revell
Written by Countable