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During President Obama's State of the Union, he talked about how if Congress didn't enact laws to help the environment, his administration would. He also did this with gun control.

My question is if the POTUS really have the constitutional power to enact such laws without the approval of Congress and take such action using executive powers? Also, I'm wondering if departments like the EPA really have the constitutional right to set regulations without approval from any other government officials.

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    You probably feel that bypasses checks and balances because you don't actually understand what was enacted. On gun control, it's not like new laws were created by presidential fiat. A lot of the executive actions were things like directing research priorities, getting a head for the ATF, and clarifying documentation for existing laws regarding mental health. – JNK Apr 4 '13 at 12:23
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    Regarding the EPA creating laws, their powers are derived from Congress when Congress CREATED the department. The EPA was created by congress and President Nixon in 1970. You seem to be under the impression that agencies or presidents having some autonomy is "unconstitutional", but if every action required congressional approval then pretty much nothing would EVER get done. Does you local police department go to the town council to get every speeding ticket approved? – JNK Apr 4 '13 at 12:26
  • @JNK - flawed analogy. They DO go to town council to create new rules on speed limits and what else can tickets be written on. – user4012 Apr 4 '13 at 14:00
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    @DVK - That's my point exactly. They set the parameters and the executive branch (in this case the police) actual do the work. Congress created the EPA with certain parameters and lets the EPA do that work. I guess a more accurate analogy would be the town council doesn't tell the police which intersections to monitor or if they can create checkpoints. – JNK Apr 4 '13 at 14:34
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    @DVK - just because you disagree with something an agency does doesn't mean it's overreaching. Please feel free to post an answer with details on those actions! – JNK Apr 4 '13 at 15:15
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Executive orders are fairly controversial from a legal standpoint, and they've been overturned by the courts on a couple occasions.

The reason why they are able to have the force of law is because congress actually often passes legislation which gives the president discretionary power in some instances. The president doesn't just unilaterally decide that he has the power to enact them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_order#History_and_use

The president can't just pass any edict he chooses. For instance, the president gave an executive order last year saying that we weren't going to deport immigrants under certain circumstances. He didn't actually pass any legislation, but he in-essence said that we weren't going to enforce it as rigorously.

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