When it comes to shaping policy, presidential executive orders are a potent tool – one that President Donald Trump has wielded frequently. As of December 28, 2017, Trump had signed 55 executive orders during his first year in office. In October 2017, CNN reported that Trump was on pace to surpass President Dwight Eisenhower for the most executive orders signed by a president during the first nine months of a new administration. Trump’s pace slowed over the fall, but with a total of 55 executive orders signed by December 28, 2017, Trump still ranks in the top four for first-year orders, trailing only Presidents Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, and John F. Kennedy.
While some of Trump’s executive orders have broad support, such as his March action creating a commission to combat the opioid crisis and his September order that increased sanctions on North Korea, many have provoked partisan debate. Looking at the more controversial orders, several consistent themes emerge: easing of regulations, rollbacks of initiatives pushed by the prior administration, and fulfillment of promises from the 2016 campaign. Here are some notable examples:
The president’s campaign promises to curtail illegal immigration and prevent terrorists from entering the country were highlighted in his order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries and in the order to discontinue funding to so-called sanctuary cities. The travel ban, which has been revised and reissued twice, continues to face challenges in court, with the most recent decision being the Supreme Court’s ruling in December to allow the latest version to take effect during the appeals process.
Amidst the larger debate about healthcare, Trump has issued two executive orders that seek to hamstring separate parts of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and thus undo one of his predecessor’s major accomplishments. In one of his very first executive orders, the president expressed the administration’s desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act, directing the government to defer or delay any parts of the law that would put a fiscal burden on the government. In October, a second executive order aimed to allow people to enroll in small group and association health care plans, actions that could destabilize Obamacare’s insurance marketplace.
Presidential election commission:
In a controversial move, Trump issued an executive order creating the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity to investigate alleged voter fraud. The order has been criticized as a fig leaf for the president’s unsubstantiated claims that massive voter fraud cost him a victory in popular votes in 2016.
President Trump campaigned on a promise to be a “law and order” president. To fulfill that pledge, he has signed multiple executive orders targeting international criminal gangs and trafficking, increasing penalties for violence against law enforcement officers, and reversing a prior ban on the sale of military-style equipment to state and local law enforcement.
Trump has issued multiple executive orders designed to impact American manufacturing and international trade, again seeking to make good on his campaign promises. In April, he signed the Buy American, Hire American order, which sought to reduce H-1B visas for foreign workers and to give preference in contracting to companies that buy American goods and use domestic contractors. Throughout the year there were other orders directing an examination of current trade agreements and promoting agriculture and rural prosperity.
Having campaigned on a promise to eliminate federal regulations that hamper business growth, Trump signed an executive order that will require agencies to revoke two regulations for every new rule they want to issue. While the US Chamber of Commerce praised this order as a boon to small business, many critics voiced concern over its potential to undermine environmental and worker safeguards.
Speaking of environmental protections, Trump has issued several executive orders that seek to rollback regulations that, according to the White House, impede manufacturing, mining, and energy production. In addition to the “one for two” order described above, Trump signed an executive order that rolled back many of the Obama administration’s regulations on clean air and climate change, citing their impact on the economy.