Obama’s love affair with executive orders — or not (in 1 chart)

President Obama served notice in his State of the Union address that he will be using more executive orders in the weeks and months ahead due to Congress's failure to act on his priorities.

Republicans, naturally, are crying foul, with one House member going so far as to call him a "socialist dictator" and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) labeling Obama's tenure an "imperial presidency."

In fact, though, a review of Obama's use of executive orders shows he's signed them at the lowest rate since the 19th Century. The last president to use so few executive actions was Grover Cleveland.

The below chart, courtesy of soon-to-be Washington Post data guru Christopher Ingraham, shows how many executive orders presidents have signed per day in office:


Now, it should be noted that this chart doesn't really say anything qualitative about the kinds of executive orders Obama has signed. An executive order raising the minimum wage for federal workers (on new or renewed contracts), as Obama announced this week, is pretty significant, as was Obama's decision to stop deportations of young illegal immigrants in 2012.

(It's also worth noting here that the Supreme Court recently suggested that Obama might have overstepped his bounds with his recess appointments. That's not really an executive order thing, per se, but it's all part of the executive authority debate.)

But it's also clear that Obama is not just throwing around executive orders willy-nilly. In fact, to this point, the former constitutional law professor has been pretty hesitant to exercise/test his executive authority.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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