US Presidents Make History with Executive Orders

29/01/2017

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  • President Donald Trump has signed many documents in his first week in office.
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  • The documents set out Trump’s policies on health care and international trade, among other things.
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  • Some of these measures are called executive orders.
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  • Others are considered White House or presidential memoranda.
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  • In this report, we explain the difference between the two and tell what kind of power each has.
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  • We also tell about some of the famous executive orders American presidents have signed.
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  • Both executive orders and memoranda have what is known as the “force of law.”
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  • In other words, they have the same power as legislation approved by Congress and signed by the president.
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  • But there are differences.
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  • Executive orders are numbered and published in the Federal Register, the official record of actions of the United States government.
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  • Memoranda do not need to be published in the Federal Register.
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  • Executive orders must identify whether the order is based on the U.S. Constitution or a law.
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  • They must also tell the cost of carrying out the order.
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  • Memoranda do not have to state such a cost, unless it is more than $100 million.
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  • Every president except one has signed executive orders and memoranda.
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  • The exception is William Henry Harrison, who served just one month in office.
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  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only president who served more than two terms, signed 3,721 executive orders – more than anyone else.
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  • Most of them dealt with measures to help the country fight the Great Depression and World War II.
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  • Some executive orders have changed history.
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  • Here are some of the most famous:
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  • President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
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  • This executive order freed all slaves living in states not under Union control during the Civil War.
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  • Since the southern states had rebelled against the federal government and left the Union, the order had little effect.
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  • But it did ensure that any slaves who escaped to the northern states were free.
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  • During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt signed many executive orders designed to create work for jobless Americans.
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  • In 1933, he used an executive order to create the Civil Works Administration.
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  • This created about four million new government jobs.
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  • He also used an order to create the Export/Import Bank.
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  • In 1934, he used an order to create the Rural Electrification Administration to bring electricity to rural, undeveloped areas of the country.
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  • President Roosevelt signed an executive order shortly after the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1941.
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  • The order gave military leaders rights to identify some parts of the country as “military areas … from which any or all persons may be excluded.”
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  • It also required the military to give food, transportation and housing to anyone forced to leave their home.
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  • As a result of the order, 120,000 men, women and children were required to leave the U.S. West Coast and stay in internment camps between 1942 and 1945.
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  • Most of them were American citizens of Japanese descent.
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  • In 1948, after the end of World War II, President Harry Truman signed an executive order that officially ended racial barriers in the United States military.
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  • The words of the order were simple:
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  • “There shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the Armed Services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”
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  • Before the order was signed, military forces trained, worked and even fought in groups separated by race.
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  • Very few of the thousands of executive orders and memoranda are as famous as those noted in this story.
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  • Some of them are signed because a president was dealing with a Congress unwilling to pass legislation that he wants.
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  • Others express the president’s opinions about a subject of importance.
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  • Together these documents tell about American history and the goals of each president and the times in which he served.
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  • I’m Dorothy Gundy..
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