The Shelf Life Of Executive Orders

Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The beginning of Donald Trump's presidency has had some controversial moments less than two weeks into its tenure. Trump has already drawn both praise and ire for firing off a number of significant executive orders in his first days in office. The bad news for opponents of these actions is that executive orders do not expire.

That means that if Americans want to see any of Trump's executive orders reversed, they'll have to look to the other two branches of government. Of course, many Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans are already searching for ways to overturn these orders, with some — but not total — success.

Trump's highly controversial set of immigration restrictions targeting seven countries — Iran, Iraq Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — is already being hotly contested in the courts. A federal judge issued a stay on deportations for people who currently hold valid U.S. visas, and additional lawsuits addressing the ban have been filed across the country.

Whether these legal challenges will be successful remains to be seen. For example, acting Attorney General Sally Yates refused to defend the order, believing it to be unconstitutional, but that prompted Trump to fire her. The Trump administration argues that it has the power to implement these restrictions under the Immigration and Nationality Act; whether judges will agree remains to be seen.

Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Executive orders could also, theoretically, be addressed by the legislature. Recent attempts by Democratic congressmen to introduce legislation that would effectively repeal the immigration order have attracted national attention; however, these efforts are unlikely to succeed because there's a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress. Majority leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) are unlikely to allow any such bill to go to a vote. In theory, though, Congress could probably repeal some of Trump's executive orders.

Some executive orders are particularly difficult to address in other branches of government because they've long been the responsibility of the president. Trump's decision to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, which removes funding from international organizations that even provide information helping women to get abortions, is part of a longstanding tradition in which Republican presidents have reinstated the rule, only for Democrats to revoke it. It is worth noting, however, that Trump's order expands the Global Gag Rule beyond its previous scope.

At any rate, when Trump uses his executive powers in a way that the courts and Congress have traditionally agreed is constitutional, those orders are the most likely to remain in place. They will not expire, even after Trump's presidency is over, but a new president could certainly reverse any — or all — of Trump's executive orders.