June 22, 2021

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Fact Check: Did Joe Biden Set Modern Record For Executive Orders in His First Week? – Newsweek

3 min read

President Joe Biden has issued a series of executive actions since assuming office on January 20 aimed at tackling a wide variety of issues, from immigration to racial justice to the environment.

Biden has signed a significant number of executive orders in a short period and has drawn criticism from Republicans, some of whom have accused the president of ruling by diktat.

The party that spent four years calling President Trump a dictator are now applauding Joe Biden for setting the record of week-one executive orders.

— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) January 27, 2021

The Claim

Some prominent Republicans have claimed that Biden has issued a modern-record number of executive orders in his first days in office. Biden had issued 37 executive orders during his first week, the New York Post reported on Tuesday.

Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) criticized Biden for the large number of executive orders he has issued.

“The party that spent four years calling President Trump a dictator are now applauding Joe Biden for setting the record of week-one executive orders,” Boebert tweeted on Tuesday.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who served as former President Donald Trump‘s personal lawyer, also was critical.

“Biden once said that excessive reliance on executive orders, ignoring the Legislature, is dictatorial,” Giuliani said. “Well Joe do you remember saying that it could be dictatorial […] Are you aware enough that it now applies to you?”

Biden once said that excessive reliance on executive orders, ignoring the Legislature, is dictatorial.

Well Joe do you remember saying that it could be dictatorial

Are you aware enough that it now applies to you?

— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) January 27, 2021

The Facts

Biden has taken more executive action in his first week in office than his immediate predecessors and many of those orders have been aimed at reversing Trump-era policies.

The Economist noted on January 22 that Biden had signed more executive orders in two days than Trump had in two months and was setting a record pace, while NBC News lists 40 executive actions up to January 26.

Of the 40, 32 are listed as executive orders. The others are classed as proclamations or memoranda. However, it’s common to refer to these as executive orders and they have a similar effect. Executive orders are listed at the Federal Register, but the site has not been fully updated yet.

“It’s too early to know whether we’ll see a large number of executive orders by Biden. It’s not unusual for a president to sign several orders on his first day in office, but Biden did more of those than his predecessors, in large part to undo many of Trump’s more controversial ones,” said Seth Masket, professor of political science at Duke University.

“But this also reflects the increasing ideological distance between the parties and a lengthening Democratic agenda—as the party’s nominee, Biden simply has more to accomplish than many of his predecessors did, even on ‘day one.'”

Richard Pildes, a professor of constitutional law at NYU Law School, told Newsweek that “None of President Biden’s initial EOs [executive orders] test the limits of executive power yet, but he faces strong demands to make government function effectively; if Congress cannot overcome gridlock, the pressures to make more aggressive use of executive powers will inevitably increase.”

The Ruling

Mostly true.

While not all Biden’s executive actions are executive orders, he has issued a modern-record number in his first days in office, far outpacing his immediate predecessors. However, many of these actions are aimed at reversing controversial policies from the previous administration.

The Federal Register clearly shows that Trump, former President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush took far fewer executive actions during their first week in office. Bush’s first executive order did not come until nine days after his inauguration in 2001.

It’s too early to tell if Biden will issue an unusual number of executive orders during his term. The initial slew of orders appears to be a reaction to the Trump policies that were still in place.

Biden Speaks About the Coronavirus Pandemic
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on January 26, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Biden has issued a large number of executive orders in his first week.
Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

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