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Republicans Alarmed Over Obama's Executive Orders, Cheer Trump's On

by Jane C. Timm /  / Updated 
President Donald Trump displays one of the executive orders he signed during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security in Washington on Jan. 25.Chip Somodevilla / Pool via EPA

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For the past eight years, Republicans skewered President Obama as an "emperor" who acted outside of his "legal authority" for the executive orders he issued from the Oval Office. Now, they are cheering President Donald Trump as he issues a raft of his own.

Trump has signed a dozen executive orders in his first few days in office, tackling everything from rolling back the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to beginning construction on the Southern border wall to freezing federal hiring. Some Republicans cheered him on, while others, charged with overseeing and investigating executive oversight, have remained silent.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is now Trump's attorney general nominee, called Obama "emperor" for his use of executive action on immigration. He has not commented on Trump's dozen presidential actions.

House Speaker Paul Ryan condemned Obama's executive orders, calling a handful he issued a year ago aimed at reducing gun violence "a dangerous level of executive overreach." Following Trump’s immigration executive order signed Wednesday, he expressed support.

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“This is about keeping Americans safe.” Ryan said in a statement on Wednesday. “I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to make this a national priority.”

In a Thursday press conference, Ryan argued that Trump's executive orders were different — because he agreed with the actions.

"It's quite the opposite. President Obama used his pen and phone to exceed his powers in our perspective. Everything Obama did by executive order, this president can undo," Ryan said, arguing that Trump could also use executive orders to overcome barriers they've encountered in the past when attempting to build a wall on the Southern border.

During Obama’s term, the House Judiciary Committee went as far as to form a task force to probe executive authority accusing “presidents of both parties” of “legislating from the Oval Office,” but acknowledged its focus was Obama.

Rep. Steve King, who heads up the House Judiciary subcommittee on executive authority, declined through a spokesman to comment on Trump's use of executive order. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Steve Cohen said he doubted the committee would act on Trump’s executive orders right now.

"They’ll probably push it down," Cohen told NBC News. “It will be a test to see if they’re consistent with their philosophy."

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said Obama had “exceeded his executive authority” and was acting “without legal authority" in 2014, following Obama’s immigration executive orders.

On Wednesday, he released a statement of support after Trump used an executive order to begin constructing a border wall.

“I welcome President Trump’s focus on these problems and look forward to reviewing today’s executive orders and working with the administration to accomplish our shared goals,” he said.

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