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The Powers of the Executive Department

Updated on February 14, 2014

The powers of the Executive Department of our government include not only the President but all the executive departments and agencies and those who work for them. There is much focus on the President and his actions especially of late but the departments and agencies can wield more power and damage in some cases than that of the President. Granted the President is in charge of the Executive Department and when things go wrong he is ultimately responsible.

Recent scandals have brought issues which must or should be properly investigated and there are efforts to do just that but the real test is whether Congress will succeed in getting the answers. Individuals who work for the executive department have distinct responsibilities with regards to the laws they are tasked to enforce. Enforcement is the key in this one third of our government.

There are many issues facing our country and the legislative proposals to address them have not seen consistent agreement. Each branch of the government realizes the problems need to be addressed but cannot agree on what the actions should be. The President has certain powers and discretion with regards to legislation enacted into law and part of that discretion is giving direction to his departments and agencies. It is within his power as defined under the Constitution to issue executive orders to provide this guidance. Actions taken by executive orders of a President are not always popular with the American public and sometimes the legislative body. If there are questions regarding proper and valid executive orders within the President’s authority it is the responsibility of Congress to take whatever action they deem necessary to address them.

The Executive Department also includes the Departments and agencies which are given the responsibility to enforce legislation signed into law by the President. There have been a large number of rules and regulations issued in recent years by this part of the government and it is their duty to write the rules and regulations associated with their individual responsibilities.

I have no problem with rules and regulations which rightly provide direction to the individuals working for them and to the public which are affected or impacted by them.

There are many well written rules and regulations by the various departments and agencies but there are others which the public in some cases feel they go too far and impact the economy negatively. The laws generated by Congress are in many cases vague and require interpretation before direction can be given to individuals with responsibilities to enforce them. It is also important to note the direction must be clearly defined and within the intent of the laws to which they are associated. Part of the checks and balances of our system of government requires that Congress oversee the rules and regulations written to enforce the laws they enact.

The individuals who are writing the rules and regulations must understand the laws for which they are tasked to generate so they can be enforced. These documents must be understood by the general public to avoid a violation of the laws and the regulations/rules to enforce them. The Executive Department is a critical part of our government as they are the enforcement authority. One of the checks and balance in effect is the judiciary which often must rule on legislation and potentially regulations on the constitutionality of them. In this respect the judiciary is the deciding body to determine who is right with regards to content of laws and the rules and regulations generated to provide guidance and enforcement language.


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