Background on Presidential Executive Actions

 

Executive actions, also called presidential actions, are actions that are taken by the President. They are usually made using the following vehicles:

  • Executive Orders
  • Presidential Proclamations
  • Presidential Memoranda

The White House website lists presidential actions at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions. There may be a lag time between the date a presidential action is signed, and when it appears on the White House website. The website does not list draft or unsigned actions.

What's the nature of and difference between these types of executive actions?

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report, Executive Orders: Issuance, Modification, and Revocation, April 16, 2014, provides a nice general summary; the report also explains some of the history, mechanics, and effect of these types of executive actions.

"Executive orders, presidential memoranda, and proclamations are used extensively by Presidents to achieve policy goals, set uniform standards for managing the executive branch, or outline a policy view intended to influence the behavior of private citizens. The U.S. Constitution does not define these presidential instruments and does not explicitly vest the President with the authority to issue them. Nonetheless, such orders are accepted as an inherent aspect of presidential power. Moreover, if they are based on appropriate authority, they have the force and effect of law."

Executive Orders are numbered serially, and must by law be published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register website lists all published Executive Orders by recent Presidents, at A. The National Archives website also has some brief FAQs About Executive Orders.

Also see NAFSA's Current Immigration Executive Orders page.