On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at allowing people to band together to seek more affordable health insurance, a move some consider an attempt to cripple the Affordable Care Act.
It was the 49th executive order that Trump has signed since coming into office on January 20. The last president to sign that many executive orders through October 13 of his first year in office? Lyndon Johnson.
This chart tells that story.
Why does it matter? Because Trump was a vociferous critic of then-President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders – casting them as a purposeful end-run of the legislative branch.
“Obama goes around signing executive orders,” Trump said in February 2016. “He can’t even get along with the Democrats. He goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster. You can’t do it.”
Trump said that same sort of thing regularly on the 2016 campaign trail. It was a perfect way to make the case that Obama was an out-of-control executive, trying to push his liberal agenda on the country via fiat.
Which makes the fact that Obama had signed roughly half of the executive orders at this point in 2009 as Trump has signed so far in 2017 rich with irony.
Trump allies will note that the bulk of Obama’s executive orders came late in his second term, making these sorts of early-on comparisons inaccurate.
It’s true that we don’t – and can’t – know how many total executive orders Trump will sign by the end of his first four-year term. But, Obama actually signed more EOs in his first term (147) than he did in his second (129), according to statistics maintained by the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. That total of 276 executive orders for Obama was less than the 291 signed by George W. Bush in his two terms and far fewer than the 364 EOs signed by Bill Clinton over eight years in office.
While we can’t know whether Trump will keep up his current pace on executive orders for the rest of his three-plus years in office, what we can say is that he is signing EOs at the second-fastest pace of any modern Republican president – trailing only Dwight Eisenhower, who had signed 60 executive orders at this time on his first term.
Be like Ike, I guess?