President Donald Trump’s first week in office was filled with a flurry of action, and he’s just getting started.
The 45th president has signed 19 executive actions so far, with far-reaching effects on Americans’ lives.
While many of them have been billed as executive orders in the popular vernacular, most of them were technically presidential memoranda or proclamations.
The three types of executive actions have different authority and effects, with executive orders holding the most prestige:
- Executive orders are assigned numbers and published in the federal register, similar to laws passed by Congress, and typically direct members of the executive branch to follow a new policy or directive.
- Presidential memoranda do not have to be published or numbered (though they can be), and usually delegate tasks that Congress has already assigned the president to members of the executive branch.
- Finally, while some proclamations — like President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation — have carried enormous weight, most are ceremonial observances of federal holidays or awareness months.
Scholars have typically used the number of executive orders per term to measure how much presidents have exercised their power. George Washington only signed eight his entire time in office, according to the American Presidency Project, while FDR penned over 3,700.
In his two terms, President Barack Obama issued 277 executive orders, a total number on par with his modern predecessors, but the lowest per year average in 120 years.
Here’s a quick guide to the executive actions Trump has made so far, what they do, and how Americans have reacted to them:
Executive Order, January 30: For every new regulation proposed, repeal two existing ones
The order states that for every one regulation the executive branch proposes, two must be identified to repeal. It also caps the spending on new regulations for 2017 at $0.
Some environmental groups expressed concern that the order could undo regulations put in place to protect natural resources.
Executive Order, January 28: Drain the swamp
The order requires appointees to every executive agency to sign an ethics pledge saying they will never lobby a foreign government and that they won’t do any other lobbying for five years after they leave government.
But it also loosened some ethics restrictions that Obama put in place, decreasing the number of years executive branch employees had to wait since they had last been lobbyists from two years to one.
Presidential Memorandum, January 28: Reorganizing the National and Homeland Security Councils
Trump removed the nation’s top military and intelligence advisers as regular attendees of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, the interagency forum that deals with policy issues affecting national security.
The executive measure established Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as a regular attendee, and disinvited the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence to attend only when necessary.
Top Republican lawmakers and national security experts roundly criticized the move, expressing their skepticism that Bannon should be present and alarm that the Joint Chiefs of Staff sometimes wouldn’t be.