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Biden has signed 19 executive orders so far. How does that compare to recent past presidents?

Joe Biden
Posted at 10:25 AM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-23 17:05:31-05

If it seems like President Joe Biden is issuing a lot of executive orders on his first few days in office, it’s because he is. Historically speaking, a lot more than his recent predecessors of both parties.

Biden signed nine executive orders on Wednesday, Jan. 20, his first day in office, and another eight on Thursday and two on Friday. Biden has also issued several other executive actions, similar to executive orders but legally different, including presidential memoranda and agency directives.

While other presidents have issued executive orders on their first day in office, the last time was former President Bill Clinton in 1993, and he issued just one. It was an order about ethics commitments by executive branch appointees, an executive order issued by many new presidents within their first few weeks.

Biden’s 19 executive orders in his first three days is about a third as many orders as former President Donald Trump signed in his entire first year in office. Trump issued 55 executive orders in 2017, according to the federal registrar, which tracks and publishes executive orders.

Trump did issue a large number of executive orders in his four years, the federal registrar reports 212 were issued during his administration. That’s about 28% more than the last president who was only in office for four years. Former President George H.W. Bush issued a total of 166 between January 1989 and January 1993, with 31 executive orders in his first year.

It’s also a large number compared to the 276 former President Barack Obama issued during his eight years in office; 291 executive orders issued by former President George W. Bush during his eight years; 364 issued by Clinton during his eight years; and 381 issued by former President Ronald Reagan during his eight years.

Each of these former presidents had just a handful of executive orders issued during their first few weeks in office. Trump issued four in January 2017, Obama issued eight in January 2009, W. Bush issued two in January 2001, Clinton issued two in January 1993, H.W. Bush issued one in January 1989, and Reagan issued one executive order during January 1981.

According to the federal registrar, “The President of the United States manages the operations of the Executive branch of Government through Executive orders.”

Executive orders are signed directives from the President of the United States. They do not require approval from Congress and they cannot be overturned by Congress. Only the current president can overturn an executive order, but issuing another one to that effect.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of executive orders Biden had issued on his first two days in office, instead stating the total number of executive actions he has issued.