Presidential Power

March 6, 2015 • Volume 25, Issue 10
Has President Obama overstepped his authority?
By Christina L. Lyons


President Obama signs an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 (AFP/Getty Images/Mandel Ngan)
President Obama signs an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 on Feb. 12, 2014. Critics say Obama overstepped his authority in taking action requiring expenditures; others note presidents throughout history have exercised broad powers over federal agencies. (AFP/Getty Images/Mandel Ngan)

President Obama's recent moves to shape U.S. policy, ranging from taking executive action on immigration to beginning to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba, have stirred new controversy over the limits of presidential power. Congressional Republicans accuse him of usurping the Constitution, and Democrats defend his actions as legitimate responses to the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill. Every president has stretched the constitutional boundaries separating the executive branch from the legislative and judicial, using executive orders, recess appointments, vetoes and other tools to accomplish policy goals. But the debate over executive power has become more heated in recent years, partly because congressional gridlock has made it harder for presidents to carry out their agendas through legislation. The U.S. fight against global terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has led some observers to question whether the Obama and George W. Bush administrations exceeded their authority in the interest of national security.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Presidential Candidates and Campaigns
Jan. 15, 2021  The Biden Presidency Updated
Jan. 31, 2020  Presidential Primaries
Nov. 16, 2018  The Presidency
Jan. 06, 2017  Trump Presidency
Mar. 06, 2015  Presidential Power
Feb. 03, 2012  Presidential Election
Jan. 30, 2009  The Obama Presidency
Aug. 08, 2008  Political Conventions
Jul. 18, 2008  Race and Politics
Apr. 20, 2007  Electing the President
Dec. 30, 1988  Promises vs. Problems
Jul. 10, 1987  Presidential Nomination Process
Feb. 03, 1984  Choosing Presidential Nominees
Jun. 06, 1980  Choosing Presidential Candidates
Apr. 09, 1976  Presidential Campaign Coverage
Feb. 23, 1972  Political Conventions
May 27, 1964  Foreign Policy Issues in Election Campaigns
Sep. 21, 1960  Voting in 1960
Jan. 06, 1960  Presidential Primaries, 1960
Jan. 04, 1956  Campaign Smearing
Nov. 30, 1955  Presidential Possibilities, 1956
May 09, 1952  Open Conventions
Jan. 16, 1952  Presidential Primaries, 1952
Oct. 12, 1949  Modernization of the Presidential Election
Jan. 14, 1948  Presidential Primaries
May 01, 1944  Foreign Policy in National Elections
Jan. 01, 1944  Choice of Candidates for the Presidency
Apr. 08, 1940  Republican Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Apr. 01, 1940  Democratic Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Jun. 19, 1939  Selection of Nominees for the Presidency
Aug. 19, 1938  Nomination by Primary
Mar. 11, 1936  Voting in Presidential Elections
Feb. 18, 1936  Presidential Candidates, 1936
Mar. 03, 1932  Decline of the Presidential Primary
Aug. 25, 1931  Presidential Candidates, 1932
May 05, 1928  National Nominating Conventions
Sep. 03, 1927  Presidential Candidates—1928
Jun. 14, 1927  Patronage Influence in Nominating Conventions
Sep. 11, 1926  The Future of the Direct Primary
Jul. 02, 1924  Proposed Reforms of Presidential Nominating Methods
Jun. 04, 1924  The Machinery of the Political Conventions
Mar. 15, 1924  Presidential Candidates and the Issues
Sep. 05, 1923  The Passing of the Second Term
Campaigns and Elections
Conflicts in Asia
Congress Actions
Investigations and Discipline
Latin American Conflicts
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Supreme Court History and Decisions