Obama Issues Most Presidential Memoranda in History
President Barack Obama and the Democrats have touted the fact
that that he has issued fewer executive orders than almost all of his
But he has actually issued a form of executive action known as
the presidential memorandum more often than any other president in
And like executive orders, presidential memoranda don't require
action by Congress, and they have the same force of law as executive
Obama said in July: "I'm issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years."
Also in July, Majority Leader Harry Reid said: "While
Republicans accuse President Obama of executive overreach, they neglect
the fact that he has issued far fewer executive orders than any two-term
president in the last 50 years."
Obama has issued 195 executive orders as of Tuesday,
according to USA Today. But in addition, 198 of his presidential
memoranda have been published alongside the orders in the Federal
Registry. When the orders and memoranda are combined, Obama is on track
to institute more high-level executive actions than any president since
He has signed 33 percent more presidential memoranda in less
than six years than George W. Bush did in eight years, and he is the
first president to issue more memoranda than executive orders.
Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford,
and George H.W. Bush all issued fewer than 50 presidential memoranda.
"The White House and its defenders can say, 'He can't be
abusing his executive authority. He's hardly using any orders," Andrew
Rudalevige, a presidential scholar at Bowdoin College, told USA Today. "But if you look at these other vehicles, he has been aggressive in his
use of executive power."
Among his recent memoranda, Obama on Tuesday used one to declare Bristol Bay, Alaska, off-limits to oil and gas exploration.
In January, he issued a memorandum telling the Treasury
Department to develop a pilot program for a new retirement savings
account for low-income workers.
In April, an Obama memorandum directed the Department of Labor
to collect salary data from federal contractors and subcontractors to
determine if they are paying women and minorities fairly.
In June, he instructed the Department of Labor to allow certain
borrowers to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of income.
In September, he used a memorandum to authorize military and other aid to the embattled government of Ukraine.
A controversial recent memorandum directed the administration
to overhaul the country's immigration system, an action that Republicans
claim exceeded his authority.
While presidential memoranda and executive orders have the same
force of law, there is one significant distinction: Due to an executive
order signed by President Kennedy in 1962, an executive order must
contain a "citation of authority," saying what law it is based on.
Presidential memoranda have no such requirement.