On July 8, 2014, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order expanding the sanctions for persons who contribute to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (“Fact Sheet”). This Executive Order is one of many issued by U.S. Presidents over the years.
Although an Executive Order is not a law, per se, it is a “directive by the Presidentthat has the power of a federal law” (“Presidential”). An Executive Order differs from a law because a law begins as a bill or proposed law. Then, according to the specific instructions listed in the U.S. Constitution, the bill must pass through both the Senate and the House for approval. After approval, the bill makes its way to the President for either signature or return (also known as a “veto”).
An Executive Order does not have to go through this bipartisan pre-approval process, but Congress may try to overturn the order by passing a bill that opposes the order. However, this bill can – as with other bills – be vetoed by the President, which then restarts the process (“Presidential”). Another way that an order can be overridden or stopped is if the Supreme Court declares the order to be unconstitutional (“Presidential”). The President’s power to issue an executive order comes from Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which gives broad power to act on the country’s behalf (“Executive Power”).
In this particular Executive Order, issued on July 8, 2014, President Obama is amending a previous Executive Order (E.O.) from October 2006 (“Fact Sheet”). The current E.O. “expands the sanctions criteria” of the original E.O. to allow the U.S. to target people contributing to the ongoing conflict in the DRC. As detailed in the “Fact Sheet” for the current E.O., the reasoning given for the amendment is because there are still activities “that threaten the peace, security, and stability of the country and the surrounding region” which includes armed groups, violence, atrocities, and human rights abuses among many others.
Listed on the “Fact Sheet” are bullet points summarizing specific details included in the current E.O. such as activities that designate those persons the U.S. government may target in order to allow for greater protection of children, women, and other civilians including broadening “the range of violent conduct for which sanctions could be imposed”.
After reading through the original E.O. and re-reading the current E.O., I agree with the President’s decision to issue it. As a global power, the United States has – time and again – had to step forward as a protector, defender, mediator, and even an arbitrator for numerous countries. Sometimes when the U.S. has been asked to step in, the situation was not dire, merely just a financial disagreement or a misunderstanding over boundaries or treaty details. But other times, the U.S. must step in to defend and possibly even rescue those innocents who find themselves in harm’s way for no reason other than the fact that they woke up in the wrong country on the wrong day. This is one of those instances.
With human rights abuses, attacks, atrocities, violence against women and children, and exploitation of all citizens and inhabitants of the DRC, the U.S. may be the only hope these people have. Although some people might argue that the U.S. has its own troubles at home, that explanation is just not enough, especially when you consider that one day we may need help, too.
“Executive Power: An Overview.” Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
“Fact Sheet on the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Executive Order.” Whitehouse.gov. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, July 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
“Presidential Executive Orders.” Answers.USA.gov. U.S. government, Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.