Barack Obama

In this Dec. 12, 2014 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

President Obama has long been criticized by Republicans for his use of executive orders, but he has refuted those arguments, claiming that in fact, he has taken less executive orders than most previous presidents. But a recent review of the president’s executive actions by USA Today  shows while Obama has issued fewer executive orders than past presidents, he has used presidential memoranda at a higher rate.

A presidential memorandum is an executive action primarily used to direct federal agencies to enact regulations. The memorandum is similar to an executive order in that it does not require congressional approval and carries the force of law, according to USA Today.

The memorandum and the executive order do have slight differences. Executive orders are numbered, while the memoranda are not. Also, the executive order has to cite the law it is based on, while the memorandum does not. However, both have consequences that are far-reaching.

President Obama has used memoranda to direct policy on immigration, gun control and labor regulations. The latest memorandum, issued Dec. 16, declared v6Bristol Bay, Alaska, off limits to gas and oil exploration.

To date, Obama has issued 195 executive orders and 198 memoranda, according to USA Today.  Added together, those directives put Obama on track to take on the highest level of executive action since President Harry Truman, who was in office over seven decades ago.

Looking at the numbers, Obama has issued 33 percent more presidential memoranda in six years than former president George W. Bush in eight years and former president Bill Clinton during his two terms in office.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about executive orders in his presidency and, of course, by sheer numbers, he’s had fewer than other presidents,” said Andrew Rudalevige, a presidency scholar at Bowdoin College, in USA Today. “So the White House and its defenders can say, ‘He can’t be abusing his executive authority — he’s hardly using any orders.’ But if you look at these other vehicles, he has been aggressive in his use of executive power.”

Despite his reliance on memoranda to direct policy, President Obama claims he has used executive actions at a lower rate than other presidents.

“The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years,” Obama said in a speech in Austin last July. “So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did.”

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