What executive orders has President Biden signed since coming to office?

What executive orders has President Biden signed since coming to office?
Source: Kevin Lamarque, Reuters
EOs are a tool used by presidents to either enact a legislative agenda or pressure Congress to act on that agenda.

On April 27, President Joe Biden signed an executive order (EO) to increase the minimum wage for anyone working on a federal contract to US$15 an hour.

That action, officially Executive Order 14026, was the 42nd and most recent executive order Biden has signed since taking office.

Like almost all presidential executive actions, Biden’s latest EO, which won’t take effect until 2022, will have minimal to no impact on the lives of most Americans.

But, as a signal of the president’s policy priorities, it indicates that this administration is still in the fight to raise the national minimum wage.

Biden’s executive orders

The Federal Register maintains a list of all presidential executive orders (also known as executive actions).

Biden’s recent minimum wage EO was signed just days before he reached the end of his first 100 days.

It capped a period of rapid action by the new president in which more than half of Biden’s EOs dealt with either the COVID-19 pandemic or immigration.

On top of the 42 EOs, Biden has also signed more than a dozen memorandums (which, for all intents and purposes, are EOs by another name), directives and proclamations.

By far, the vast majority of the orders signed by Biden were signed within the first week of his presidency, including nine EOs on his first day in office.

Many of those orders were either aimed at taking action to address the ongoing pandemic or reversing the immigration policies of Biden’s predecessor, President Donald Trump.

In fact, nearly half of the orders and directives that Biden has signed have in some way reversed a Trump-era EO or directive.

The most recent reversal was a memo Biden signed on April 16 that said his administration would raise the annual cap on refugees that the Trump administration had set at 15,000.

Other EOs or directives Biden has signed have included ones related to addressing climate change, racial inequality, the economy, national security and health care.

Are executive orders unusual?

Not at all. If anything, they’re less common than they used to be.

Ever since the first president, George Washington, the number of EOs signed during a presidency have fluctuated.

During times of strife, like both World Wars and the Great Recession, presidents could average hundreds of EOs (and related actions) a year.

In the last two generations, President Ronald Reagan signed the most: 381. President Bill Clinton was next, at 364.

Obama, who was accused by his opponents in the Republican Party of being a “dictator” and “authoritarian” for his use of EOs, signed 276 in eight years. Trump signed 220 in four.

If Biden were to keep signing EOs at the rate he has in his first 100 days, he would be on pace to sign more EOs per year than any president since President Franklin Roosevelt.

But Biden considerably slowed down on the EOs after his first week and it seems unlikely he will ramp back up to that rate now that he has taken action on many of his campaign promises.

Why do presidents use executive orders?

EOs are a tool used by presidents to either enact a legislative agenda or pressure Congress to act on that agenda.

They are often used early in a president’s term to take action while the new Congress goes through the much slower process of passing laws.

In his first 100 days, Biden signed more EOs than Trump. In Trump’s first 100 days, he signed more than President Barack Obama. And Obama signed more than President George W. Bush.

Unlike laws, EOs can be struck down by judges if they are deemed to be unconstitutional.

Also, as Biden has shown, they can easily be reversed by a successor, so the best way for a president to secure their legacy is by getting their agenda passed through Congress.

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