The Three Ways Executive Orders Can Be Stopped

by Joseph D. Lyons
Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Thus far, President Donald Trump has moved forward with his campaign promises by using executive orders and memoranda. In part, that's because even Republicans in Congress probably wouldn't be willing to pass legislation calling for border walls or travel bans. Trump, meanwhile, takes no issue appointing a senior civilian adviser on the National Security Council or setting Obamacare up to fail. With a quick flip of the wrist adding his signature to a prepared document, Trump can make controversial policy moves happen. But not all hope is lost: There are three ways executive orders can be stopped.

Trump so far is right on track with the number of his executive actions compared with his predecessors. He has signed 18 so far, whereas Barack Obama had signed 19 at the same point in his presidency. The issue, though is not quantity but quality — at least when it comes to stopping them. Of all his actions that he has taken, some are more vulnerable than others.

For example the travel and refugee ban has come under criticism from Republicans like John McCain and others. Other executive actions, like outlawing administration officials from going on to lobby for foreign governments is probably not so controversial (although Trump lessened some Obama ethics roles in the same order).

For those that are unacceptable, the good news is that they can be stopped. The only problem is that they're not exactly quick. Here are the three ways to do it:

1) Through Congress

This would be the best way, arguably, because it could happen quickly — and it's the way that laws were intended to be written. Of course, the obvious caveat here is that Trump would have to sign them — or Congress would have to override his veto. There are probably very few things Trump has done that Congress disagrees with universally enough to overturn with veto-proof margins. Republicans hold too much sway.

One of those could be Steve Bannon's appointment to the National Security Council. There's a Florida Democrat who introduced a bill in the House to return the generals instead. The Senate Democrats are also pushing legislation to overturn the travel and refugee ban.

2) Through The Courts

That's what we're seeing right now with the travel and refugee ban. It has been challenged in courts across the country, and finally on Friday a federal judge in Seattle issued a stay in its implementation nationwide. The Ninth District Court of Appeals rejected efforts from the Department of Justice to overturn that stay.

This is the biggest win to date in stopping the law. Earlier the ACLU won its legal challenge, but the ruling didn't cover the entire country. This is not the end, though. The case could well make it to the Supreme Court.

3) By The President

You've seen Trump try through executive actions to undo some of the things that Obama accomplished legislatively like the Affordable Care Act. But he has also undone some executive actions. For example, his reinstatement of the global gag order overrides an Obama executive action that got rid of it.

So there's the chance that Trump will come to his senses and change course on these decisions — supposedly he's not happy about the "details" of the order that placed Bannon on the National Security Council — but don't hold your breath. Trump doesn't like being wrong. But electing someone else in 2020 would be a solution.

Hopefully one of the three routes will be taken for the most damaging of his orders. The quickest would be the best.