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95-772 A

CRS Report for Congress

Received through the CRS Web

Executive Orders and Proclamations

Updated March 9, 1999

John Contrubis
Legislative Attorney
American Law Division

Congressional Research Service The Library of Congress

Executive Orders and Proclamations


What are executive orders and proclamations, and where does the President derive the authority to issue them? These questions have been the subject of political and academic debate since the inception of our nation. Their lack of definitive resolution stems from the ambiguity of the scope of executive authority vested in the resident by the Constitution. Upon developing the Constitution, the Framers included Article II which, for our purposes, states that “the executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States,” “the President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States,” and “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Although the power to issue executive orders has often been based upon Article II, the Framers did not specifically give the President such authority. Moreover, the question has yet to be answered by either Congress or the Supreme Court. In any event, it is clear that if based on appropriate authority, executive orders have the force and effect of law.

This report examines the origin and usage of these presidential instruments. It also analyzes the scope of the President's authority to use such instruments and possible responses by Congress and the Judiciary.