GOP said Obama's executive orders were "king"-like. Guess what they said about Trump's.

GOP said Obama's executive orders were "king"-like. Guess what they said about Trump's.
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

For eight years, Republicans slammed former President Barack Obama for his use of executive orders, saying he was governing like a "king" instead of allowing Congress to carry out their constitutionally granted authority to make laws.

Yet there's been nary a peep from GOP leadership as Republican President Donald Trump scribbles his name on a bevy of executive orders that seek to circumvent laws put in place by Congress — from reducing the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act to demanding the start of construction on a border wall with Mexico without congressionally appropriated funding.

Never mind the fact that Obama issued fewer executive orders than any president in the last 120 years, according to the Pew Research Center, Republicans of all stripes bashed "King Obama." 

Trump himself criticized Obama for his executive actions in a 2012 tweet, asking why Obama was "constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority."

Trump's tweet linked to an Obama order that sought to make a chain of command in an emergency situation.

Republicans were especially tough on Obama's executive orders during the 2016 presidential primary.

"The problem with executive authority for the president, it's really bad news for this reason," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said of Obama in Republican primary debate in February. "Since he's given up on working with Congress, he thinks he can impose anything he wants. He's not a king. He's a president."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Obama a "king" and a "dictator" for his use of executive orders.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina called Obama's executive orders "lawless."

In 2014, House Speaker Paul Ryan complained that Obama took executive actions without trying to work with Congress.

"We've gone to the president and said, 'Give us time to do immigration reform, to work on the issue this year. We want to get this done,'" Ryan told the Washington Post regarding one of Obama's executive orders on immigration. "And this is the reaction he has to that? He had two years with a super-majority of his own party, and he didn't lift a finger. And now he won't give us a few weeks? He's basically choosing to give us a partisan bomb."

Trump, for his part, has a unified Republican government and yet is going over Congress' head — without nary a complaint from Ryan.

In fact, in a stunningly hypocritical move, Ryan actually defended Trump's use of executive orders on Thursday, twisting himself into a pretzel to claim Trump's orders give powers back to the states while Obama's didn't.

"President Obama used his pen and phone and executive orders to exceed his power in our perspective," Ryan told reporters Thursday at a GOP retreat in Philadelphia. "Everything that President Obama did by executive order this new president can undo. We would like to see these things undone, and we would like to see power restored to people in the states and not the federal government, and that's what this president is doing."

In fact, some of Trump's orders do the exact opposite.

Trump's orders have, in fact, been proactive — not merely undoing Obama's edicts. What's more, some of Trump's executive orders do the exact opposite of returning power to the states.

In one of his immigration orders, Trump threatened to pull funding from municipalities whose local law enforcement officers don't detain undocumented immigrants they arrest — an order that could be unconstitutional.

And in the case of his border wall order, Trump unilaterally sought to shift funding for construction of the wall and sidestep Congress — something Ryan complained about during Obama's tenure.

Other Republicans launched similar attacks at Obama for trying to circumvent Congress.

In a Republican weekly address delivered by GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in June, she said Congress should be the one to make laws, not the president — an attack she had also made months before.

"Over time, presidents came to legislate by executive orders; courts came to make laws from the bench; and we, Congress, ceded power to the other two branches in order to simplify the lawmaking process," McMorris Rodgers said in the videotaped speech. "But Congress is the seat of representative democracy. It is here that 'we The People' should make decisions about all laws that will govern us."

One of the only Republicans to speak up was Sen. John McCain, who denounced Trump's talk of potentially reinstating torture.

"The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law," McCain said in a statement on Wednesday. "We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America."

Most Republicans, however, have been silent, or in the case of Ryan defended Trump for using executive orders to govern.

For the GOP, governing by executive orders is bad — except when their party is doing it.

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Emily C. Singer

Emily C. Singer, née Cahn, is a senior writer for Mic covering politics. She is based in New York and can be reached at esinger@mic.com

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