As the Chief Executive of the United States, presidents have several ways to direct the actions of the executive branch of government and essentially make policy without input from Congress or the courts, the most common of which are executive orders. In the first week of his presidency, Donald Trump has already signed 12 executive orders on issues ranging from healthcare to immigration, according to PBS Newshour. Is there a limit on how many executive orders a President can sign? The only limitations on executive authority are those imposed by Congress or the Supreme Court.
Executive orders from the president, according to the National Constitutional Center, carry the same authority as federal law, but aren't explicitly outlined in the Constitution. Every president has flexed their executive order powers, including George Washington, the NCC reported. But while there is no Constitutional limit to the number of executive orders a president can sign, Congress can pass a law overriding an executive order, but that law would be subject to presidential veto power, the NCC said. The Supreme Court also has authority to reign in executive overreach, as it did with an order issued by Harry Truman, according to the NCC.
Christina Rodriguez from Yale University recently talked to NPR about the president's executive order authority:
So the executive order is a specific form that allows the president to do two things. The first is to issue directives about how the executive branch is going to operate to manage the internal affairs of his department. The second form of executive order stems from statutory authority that's been delegated. In statutes, Congress often gives the president power to make certain decisions. In executive orders that are under this umbrella, the president is careful to cite that statutory authority in order to justify the steps that he's taking.
She added that each executive order must also go through the Department of Justice for a vetting process.
In the first handful of days in office, Trump has signed 12 executive orders so far. He's started the job of dismantling Obamacare, reinstated worldwide restrictions on abortion through the "Mexico City Policy," pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and announced draconian immigration restrictions and began clearing the path for building his promised border wall, among other actions, according to Politico.
Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama, issued 277 executive orders during his two terms, according to Pew Research, putting him at number 16 among all presidents for the number of executive orders issued while in office. It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who issued the most executive orders—a total of 3,721, according to Pew.
To keep historical pace, Trump will likely sign many more executive orders to try and set the American government's agenda without input from Congress or the American people.