President Donald Trump’s first two months in office were filled with a flurry of action, and he’s just getting started.
The 45th president has signed 38 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. Trump has issued 17 orders.
- 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. Trump has issued 14 memoranda.
- 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. Trump has issued seven proclamations.
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. Trump, so far, has signed 17 executive orders in 59 days.
Here’s a quick guide to the executive actions Trump has made so far, what they do, and how Americans have reacted to them:
Presidential proclamation, March 17: National Poison Prevention Week
Trump proclaimed March 19 through March 25, 2017 National Poison Prevention Week in order to encourage Americans to safeguard their homes and protect children from ingesting common household items that may poison them.
Presidential memorandum, March 16: A letter to the House of Representatives outlining Trump’s proposed budget
Trump sent his first budget to the House of Representatives, requesting an additional $30 billion for the Department of Defense to fight ISIS and $3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to protect the US border.
To offset the massive defense money, Trump proposes slashing funding for several key federal agencies, dropping budgets for the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency by almost a third.
Several noteworthy Republican lawmakers signaled they didn’t approve of Trump’s first budget, and Democrats across the board decried the deep spending cuts.
Executive Order, March 13: Reorganizing the executive branch
With the written aim of improving the efficiency of the federal government, Trump signed an order to shake up the executive branch, and “eliminate or reorganize unnecessary or redundant federal agencies” identified in a 180-day review.
It directs Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to review agency head’s proposed plans to reorganize or shrink their departments, and submit a plan to Trump by September 2017 outlining how to streamline the government.
Historians expressed skepticism that Trump would be able to effectively shrink the government, since many past presidents have tried and failed to do so. Critics argued that Trump could use the order to dismantle federal agencies that he or his Cabinet members don’t like.