President Donald Trump is signing executive orders at the most aggressive pace since World War II in an effort to push through his agenda quickly and roll back major Obama administration policies in areas such as energy, the environment and the military.
Trump is expected to have signed 32 executive orders by Friday, one day short of his 100th day in office. And he’s on track to sign almost 120 executive orders in his first year — the most since Harry Truman.
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Executive orders allow a president to shape how the federal government uses its broad powers. These orders cannot change existing laws or alter spending levels, but they can tell agencies how to use their resources and which laws to emphasize.
Former President Barack Obama, for instance, used executive orders to treat certain immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally with more leniency. Trump has used executive orders to toughen immigration enforcement.
The first-year president has resorted to executive orders while most of his major legislative priorities languish or get debated in Congress.
The last 10 presidents issued fewer than 400 executive orders during their terms in office. If Trump keeps going at the current pace, he’s likely to top Dwight Eisenhower but trail Truman.
Franklin Roosevelt, the longest serving president in American history, issued a record 3,522 executive orders from 1933 until his death in early 1945.
Executive orders derive their authority from the U.S. Constitution and the first was issued by George Washington. Perhaps the most famous was the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The most controversial: FDR’s creation of Japanese internment camps during World War II.
As prior presidents such as Obama have found out, however, executive orders are not permanent. Future presidents can undo or override them, just as Donald Trump has done.