U.S. President Donald Trump is to sign at least four executive orders this week, giving him the distinction of having signed more directives (28) in his first 100 days in office than any president since Franklin Roosevelt.
A check by Politifact shows FDR signed 76 such orders in the same 100-day period in 1933.
“Overall he [Trump] has signed a record number of executive orders,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer Monday.
The 28 directives Trump has signed since taking office January 20th are mostly aimed at such things as rolling back regulatory reform, restricting illegal border crossings and creating jobs. Most have had little immediate effect, but have started a review process that could lead to future action.
The four Trump will sign this week bring his total to 32, include one calling for a review of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows a president to protect lands of historic or scientific value by declaring them national monuments.
President Barack Obama frequently used the Antiquities Act, notably last December, weeks before he left office, when he prohibited oil drilling on 650,000 hectares of land in Nevada and Utah that is said to be rich in Native American artifacts.
A senior White House official did not mention the Obama administration specifically, saying only that “past administrations have overused the law to designate large chunks of land far in excess of what is necessary for protection.”
Another Trump order sets in motion an America First Offshore Energy Strategy, including a review of mostly Obama-era energy policies that restrict the number of locations available for offshore oil and gas exploration.
Trump often accused Obama during the presidential campaign of effectively short-circuiting the legislative process by executive fiat, making rules and regulations that could not make it through a Congress dominated by opposition Republicans.
“I don’t think he even tries anymore. I think he just signs executive actions,” Trump said of then-President Obama in 2015.
Obama signed 276 executive orders during his presidency, the fewest by any two-term president in the modern era. That is an average of fewer than 35 a year, less than any other president since Grover Cleveland in the 19th century.
Presidential historian Max Skidmore of the University of Missouri-Kansas City says executive orders are a time honored way of accomplishing politically unpopular goals. Skidmore, who has written books about presidential powers, points to President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, signed in 1863 at the height of the Civil War, or President Harry Truman’s 1948 order desegregating the military.
“When Truman desegregated the military, there was no way on earth Congress would have approved,” Skidmore told VOA. “Congress was under the control of arch conservative Democrats in the 1940s, so they certainly weren’t going to pass such legislation. The only way to do it was by executive order,” he said.
John Hudak, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, says it is normal to see a surge in executive orders at the beginning of any presidency, as an administration tries to undo the work of the previous president.
Politics in the United States have a funny way of dealing with executive orders,” Hudak said. “Every presidential candidate hates executive orders, but every president loves them, and the party in power in the White House loves them and then becomes their staunchest critics as soon as they’re out of the White House.”