October 3, 2012

Executive Orders

We had an interesting discussion this morning regarding the use of Executive Orders by Presidents. My eldest was reading about it in her U.S. Government textbook and she wondered why they weren't used more often; after all, it seemed an easy way for a President to 'rule by fiat' in a sense. That led to discussion of why they are used, the character of the person using them, and the context for their use (period in history, what was going on at the time, what was intended to be accomplished, why an EO was needed vice simply enforcing a law passed by Congress, etc.). 

Over the past couple of years much has been made of the Obama Administration's use of Executive Orders, especially given concerns about the Administration attempting to by-pass a 'do nothing' Congress. I checked the National Archives site for a listing of EOs and have copied it below. 

The king of EOs remains FDR at 3728, averaging 310 per year for his twelve years in office. So far, BHO and GWB are tied for least EOs issued averaged over their term(s) in office (GWB-36 per year, BHO-35 per year).

For the most part, Presidents issue EOs to clarify specific points of policy or enforcement actions within the context of a more broadly worded law passed by Congress. Occasionally, Presidents attempt to 'legislate by EO', that is to write and enforce their own perspective that may or may not be in accordance with Congressional action. When this happens, challenges are usually raised via the courts. 

Wikipedia has a very good overview of Executive Orders here (lots of footnotes, links to other references).

The National Archives site for Executive Orders is here.

Barack Obama (2009-Present) 
EO's 13489 - 13628 (140) (updated to account for EOs signed but not yet recorded by the National Archives)

George W. Bush (2001-2009) 
EO's 13198-13488 (291)

William J. Clinton (1993-2001) 
EO's 12834-13197 (364)

George Bush (1989-1993) 
EO's 12668-12833 (166)

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) 
EO's 12287-12667 (381)

Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) 
EO's 11967-12286 (320)

Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977) 
EO's 11798-11966 (169)

Richard Nixon (1969-1974) 
EO's 11452-11797 (346)

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) 
EO's 11128-11451 (324)

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) 
EO's 10914-11127 (214)

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) 
EO's 10432-10913 (486)

Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) 
EO's 9538-10431 (896)

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) 
EO's 6071-9537 (3728)

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) 
EO's 5075-6070 (996)

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