Trump and Obama issued more executive orders during their first 10 days in office than their six predecessors (Gerald Ford through George W. Bush) combined
A frequent refrain heard from critics of Donald Trump during his first week as president of the United States is that he is not governing by working with Congress but, instead, by decree via executive orders.
To be sure, the 45th president has drawn significant attention from the executive orders he has penned at the onset of his administration – particularly with regard to securing the nation’s southern border with Mexico, withholding some federal funding to sanctuary cities, and denying entry into the United States those nationals from countries deemed to pose terrorist threats.
All told, Trump signed six executive orders during his first 10 days in office – the most among the 13 presidents to serve since the end of World War II.
[This report examines the 13 presidents to first take office after the passage of the Federal Register Act of 1936. Prior to the act, the documentation and text of executive orders and other presidential papers is less comprehensive].
To be sure, throughout his administration, Barack Obama was also criticized for legislating from the Oval Office through executive orders.
Obama signed five executive orders during his first three days in office. And some of these were met with controversy.
Obama’s orders to put in motion the closure of Guantánamo Bay Naval Base (#13492), to expedite the disposition of its detainees (#13492), and to change interrogation techniques (#13491) were met with strong disapproval in some ideological and partisan circles.
While every president since Truman issued at least one executive order during his first 10 days in office, none signed as many as Trump and Obama.
Truman signed four executive orders, with John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford signing three, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush two, and Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush just one.
Trump may soon fall behind Obama on the executive order front, however, as the Democrat signed another four on his 11th day in office (January 30, 2009).
Of course it is not simply the number of orders a president signs that engenders controversy, but the specific actions federal officials are instructed to take.
For example, few would quibble about Lyndon Johnson’s November 23, 1963 order to close government departments and agencies on the Monday after Kennedy’s assassination (#11128) as a mark of respect for the 35th president.
However, it may surprise some Obama critics that he signed only 276 executive orders throughout his two terms, or about one every 10.6 days in office.
That is fewer than each of his 11 predecessors under study: Truman (1 per 3.1 days), Eisenhower (1 per 6.0 days), Kennedy (1 per 4.8 days), Johnson (1 per 5.8 days), Nixon (1 per 5.9 days), Ford (1 per 5.3 days), Carter (1 per 4.5 days), Reagan (1 per 7.7 days), George H.W. Bush (1 per 8.8 days), Clinton (1 per 8.0 days), and George W. Bush (1 per 10.0 days).
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