What Are Executive Orders and How Do They Work?

In the past few weeks, President Donald Trump has signed over 20 executive actions.

He’s forbid the United States from funding any global nonprofit that dares to mention abortion. He’s called to pull funding from sanctuary cities that refuse to report undocumented immigrants. He’s green-lighted the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

We’ve talked a lot about the content of these actions on Care2, but how do they actually work? 

If you’re befuddled, here’s a primer on executive actions.

What is an executive action?

Some media have called most of Trump’s recent directives “executive orders,” which isn’t always accurate. The phrase they’re looking for is “executive action.”

An executive action is the catch-all term to describe various policy tools the president uses. These include executive orders, which have the most authority, but aren’t limited to them.

What is an executive order?

An executive order is a directive the president issues to the executive branch. The Federal Register assigns a number and publishes the order.

The order usually has the same power as federal law—unless the justice system finds the president doesn’t have the authority to issue such a rule.

What is a memorandum?

Other mandates Trump has issued are actually memorandums. Basically, a memorandum is like an executive order; it just isn’t published.

Trump’s command to his administration to take a month to figure out how to “defeat ISIS” was a memorandum.

Is a president’s right to pass executive orders in the Constitution?

The Constitution does not specifically grant the president power to issue executive orders. However, the document implies that power, according to the National Constitution Center.

Article II mandates presidents “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” as commander in chief.

Are there any checks and balances on an executive order?

Yes. Simply put, courts can an challenge executive order’s legality, and Congress can pass laws to override an order’s actions after the fact.

As Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello writes, “An executive order must either relate to how the executive branch operates or exercise an authority delegated to the president by Congress. But that last power is limited: Congress can’t delegate legislative powers to the president that are specifically assigned to Congress in the Constitution.”

Typically, presidents vet potential orders through agencies like the Department of Justice. Trump did not do this with his recent refugee ban.

How is Trump using executive orders, compared to other presidents?

While Trump may seem like he’s cranking out the executive orders, he’s signed about the same number as Barack Obama did in his first 12 days. Trump did 18; Obama, 19.

Granted, as Keith Collins notes in Quartz, Trump’s have been more “varied and impactful,” including the call for a wall on the U.S. and Mexico border and to weaken Obamacare.

Only time will tell if Trump’s use of executive orders stays more like Obama, who signed the fewest per year than other presidents in more than a century, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who signed nearly 4,000 over his 12 years as president. (This was before term limits.)

Photo Credit: Joe Piette

67 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y9 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y9 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J9 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J9 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Val M
Val M2 years ago

Thanks for the info. Hope our judicial system can keep him in check somewhat!

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David F
David F2 years ago

U.S. Marine Reveals truth about Donald trump's travel ban

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HxlV4Y44pQ

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Philippa P
Philippa Powers2 years ago

Thanks.

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Winn A
Winn Adams2 years ago

Impeach the sexual predator and get rid of Bannon, the real president.

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Winn A
Winn Adams2 years ago

Thanks

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