Executive Orders So Far, Lots More Memorandums – But What ARE They?

executive orders

What is an executive order exactly? Why are these orders causing so much media mayhem? And just how many have been signed since the inauguration compared to Obama, Bush and other past presidents? What about the memoranda?

So. Many. Questions.

But believe it or not, Trump has only signed a handful of executive orders and a barrel full of memorandums; we must separate the two and seek a clear understanding.

What is an executive order?

An executive order is a legally binding document. It declares a specific government policy. The executive order grants the force and effect of law and is issued to the executive branch of the government.

The executive order grants the President a degree of discretionary power but are subjected to judicial review. If the courts determine, the order can be halted, but only under constitutional law – where the statue of constitution is unsupported.

Normally, these orders pertain more to domestic and internal affairs than foreign policy but are also used during war time, and emergencies.

Executive orders do not require congressional approval. This is where the President sets the theme with the benefit of avoiding public debate. It can only be amended by another executive order.

Furthermore, executive orders require numbering and publication in the Federal Register by law. So far, Trump has only issued 7 orders.

executive orders

What is a Presidential Memoranda?

The memoranda are a lesser form of executive order and still has the force of law behind them. They became more common in Obama’s elected terms.

The memoranda are not numbered nor does it require publication in the Federal Register. Both differences make the memoranda difficult to count.

The memoranda requirements to enact it are also less stringent. They don’t require the citation of authority to issue it.

The memoranda are used to delegate tasks and reports allocated by Congress to the president.  They can be used to start a regulatory process, or direct a specific department to act.

Because there are less requirements to impose the memoranda, they are easier to enforce and engage upon.

The memoranda are still an exercise of presidential power.

2017’s Executive Orders (so far) Are:

  1. Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal (rolling back the Obamacare);
  2. Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects (those in charge of environmental impact of infrastructure reviews were ordered to return assessments quickly – in a timelier manner (would directly impact DAPL));
  3. Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements (The Wall and border protection);

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  4. Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States (Dealing with undocumented immigrants & deportation);
  5. Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States (preventing refugees from entering the country for 120 days) – the Higher Courts are currently in the process of overturning this;
  6. Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees (“draining the swamp” – bans imposed on administration officials lobbying for foreign governments);
  7. Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs (amongst other things, supposedly helping small businesses get up and running).

Comparisons to Other Administrations via the Federal Register:

  • Obama issued 276 executive orders during his run as president.
  • George Bush, Jr – 291 executive orders.
  • Clinton issued a whopping 308 executive orders.
  • Ronald Reagan appears to have issued 381 orders per the federal register – but during the Cold War era.
  • Theodore Roosevelt 1,081 orders –during a very turbulent time (WWII) in history.

Some of the Memorandums issued:

  1. The Mexico City Policy (this includes restricted funding for NGOs who provide abortions);
  2. Withdrawal from the TTP negotiations;
  3. The Hiring Freeze (of federal workers other than military);
  4. Prioritization of the Dakota Access Pipeline (expediting the pipeline process);

    executive orders

  5. Plan to defeat ISIS (including the sale of oil);
  6. Rebuilding the US Armed Forces (overhauling the armed forces from weapons through to budget);

The memorandums are difficult to track as they legally do not have to be released directly to the public.

Within the first five days of taking office, Obama had also signed 5 executive orders, and by the end of the month had reversed 8 orders issued by his predecessor, George W. Bush.


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