Congressional Republicans threw a fit when President Barack Obama said during his State of the Union address this week that he would issue executive orders to forward policies if he couldn’t reach an agreement with Congress.
“He’s not a king,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said, warning that House conservatives might just sue Obama if he followed through on his pledge. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) bemoaned Obama’s “imperial presidency” in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal.
But, as the chart above shows, Obama has been downright thrifty in issuing executive orders by historical standards.
His 168 executive orders come out to less than 0.1 for every day he’s been in office. FDR, by comparison, was cranking out close to one per day as he faced the Great Depression and World War II. The first half of the 20th century was the prime time for execution action, at least when measured by executive orders per day in office. Herbert Hoover, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge rounded out the top five by that metric.
And, despite the Republican rhetoric, the numbers suggest that presidential power, as wielded by volume of executive orders anyway, is actually declining. George W. Bush and Obama recorded the fewest orders per day in office since before 1900.
Raw totals, of course, cannot account for the scope and tangible impact of individual executive orders or incorporate other elements of executive power. But they give a sense of how often presidents saw fit to utilize this specific tool to advance their agenda without any input from Congress
(h/t WonkViz, who inspired the chart)