The Executive Order Integrity Act, S. 2929, isn’t the sort of bill that a member of Congress just up and decides to write on the spur of the moment. The bill, sponsored by Senator Russell Feingold and cosponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, requires the president to make formal notifications of executive orders and changes to executive orders — to the public through the Federal Register if the subject is unclassified and to security-cleared congressional committees if the subject is classified. Executive orders are directives with the status of semi-law issued by a President to instigate a course of action, and the more power a president has, the more important executive orders become.
A bill regulating the transparency of their modification is a very specific piece of legislation responding to a very specific problem in government. The conditions under which Feingold and Whitehouse originally introduced the Executive Order Integrity Act in the 110th Congress are well-known: George W. Bush had been caught issuing, revoking and changing around multiple executive orders granting himself and his administration multiple new powers. The only way that Americans found out about these executive orders was through investigative journalism and the occasional leak.
With the election of Barack Obama as President, President George W. Bush became an ex-president and no longer needed to be reined in. Apart from hyperbolic conservative Christian declarations of “secret Obama executive orders” at the beginning of his administration that … um, were published in the federal register … what secret executive order problem has there been in the Obama administration?
Well, Senators Feingold and Whitehouse seemed to agree with that sentiment, refraining from reintroducing their legislation with a new 111th Congress and a new Obama administration. But that sentiment changed last December, when the pair decided it was time to bring their bill back from the dead for fresh consideration.
What prompted Feingold’s and Whitehouse’s change of heart? There’s a lot that could. The two senators are placed on both the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over constitutional matters, and the Intelligence Committee, which deals with all the secret shenanigans we citizen people aren’t to be told.
I don’t know what prompted the reintroduction of S. 2929, and the overwhelming conservative chatter about more recent “secret executive orders” by Obama that were actually made quite public really isn’t helpful as I to figure this out.
The offices of Senators Feingold and Whitehouse are mum about why S. 2929 needs to be reintroduced under the Obama administration. If you know something about the bill’s context pertaining to our new president, don’t be secretive. Let us know.