Increasing Unilateral Powers of the Executive Branch


Power is consolidating in the Executive branch.  We have witnessed an unprecedented explosion of presidential “signing statements” during the last four presidencies.  Until Ronald Reagan became President, only 75 statements had ever been issued.   Reagan and his successors George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton produced 859 signing statements all together.  As of January 30, 2008, George W. Bush had added another 157 signing statements, bringing the total – for the last four presidents alone – to over 1000

“Plenty of presidents have worked to increase presidential power over the years, but the theory of the unitary executive, first proposed under President Reagan, has been expanded since then by every president, Democrat and Republican alike.”

“Each president since 1980 has used the theory to seize more and more power.”

“The American Bar Assn. denounced this practice in 2006 as presenting “grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances, that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries.”
“Bush’s aggressive exercise of unilateral powers has attracted serious opposition. Unfortunately, too many imagine that the unitary executive doctrine and its kingly prerogatives will leave office with him. That hope is false. History teaches that presidents do not give up power — both Democrats and Republicans have worked to keep it. And besides, hoping the next president will give back some powers means conceding that it is up to him to make that decision.”


It would seem then that the last four presidents have set the stage for the next one.  It sure will be interesting to continue to track this trend – now that the president stands where kings have always stood . . .




“The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.”    
Abraham Lincoln – 1848





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