Executive Orders

Do I think 30 executive orders in the first week of Biden’s presidency is crazy?

In short, yes.

Not so short additional thoughts based on all the “Oh my god, we’re doomed!” posts/headlines/blogs ect. I’ve seen:

Executive orders are not new, every president since the very first has used executive orders to quickly issue federal directives. While the number of executive orders each president has issued varies greatly, they have all used them – even George Washington.

The problem with executive orders is they are not congressional legislation and they are easy to undo by the next president through his/her own executive orders.

The good thing about executive orders is the sitting president has the ability to get things started without waiting on congress – this is especially good when there is an emergency. In the recent past, we’ve had presidents using executive orders more and more often to initiate programs and policy congress is unlikely to pass due to partisanship. This brings us back to that problem – executive orders aren’t permanent and are easy to undo.

Remember that old joke “It would take an act of Congress to get that done!”? Your mother may have used it at some point in reference to your room being a mess and wanting you to clean it. The joke is funny because even in less divisive times we all know Congress is slow.

There are some key differences between actual legislation as passed by Congress and executive orders however both are subject to judicial review and can be overturned if they lack support by statute or the constitution. I encourage you to look all this up if you are confused or just haven’t ever thought to look into what an executive order is, and isn’t, before. Much of this is covered in Article Two of the Constitution. (for those of you that only know a few constitutional amendments – article 2 is not the same as the second amendment).

Like most people, I’ve caught the headlines and read into a handful of the executive orders Biden has signed so far. Many of them I agree with, some I take issue with, and a few I’m not so keen on due to cascading effects.

Just about half of Biden’s executive orders so far have been in regards to the pandemic. This should be expected, and honestly, Trump should have issued many of them himself but whatever.
We’re far too early into the Biden administration to compare anything just yet but I still feel like some people could use a reminder of the following:

1. Trump issued an executive order in the first few days of his presidency back in 2017 that required federal government appointees to sign a pledge to not lobby the agencies in which they worked for five years after leaving the administration. This was his first act to “drain the swamp”. This executive order was issued after Trump revoked Obama’s executive order which barred appointments for anyone registered as a lobbyist in the preceding year. To sum all that up – Trump revoked an order that would have blocked many of his own appointees, then issued an order claiming he would prevent those appointees from being able to be lobbyists again for 5 years after his term.

Fun fact; Trump then revoked his own executive order preventing his appointees from becoming lobbyists on his way out the door on Jan, 20th at 1am in the morning. Basically, he refilled the swamp he promised to drain, but never actually drained, as he exited the white house.

2. Trump issued 220 executive orders in his one term.

3. Obama issued only 276 total executive orders throughout his two terms, 147 of those in his first.

4. Baby Bush issued 291 executive orders during his two terms in office, 173 of those in the first term.

5. Not even Reagan issued as many executive orders as Trump did in his first term, falling just shy of Trump’s total with 213 issued in his first 4 years.

6. We have to go back to Carter and Nixon to beat the number of executive orders issued by a president in their first (or only) term. Carter with a whopping 320, and Nixon with 247.

Fun fact; Nixon only issued 99 executive orders in his second term – you know, because it was cut short when he resigned to avoid being impeached.

7. Many of Trump’s initial executive orders were to undo his predecessor’s executive orders as well, Just like Biden is doing now.

*Bonus fun fact: The only president to never issue a single executive order was William Henry Harrison, our 9th president. Wanna guess why that is? I’ll just tell you – it is because he died 31 days into his presidency and was too sick to do much of anything, let alone issue executive orders, prior to his death.

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