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5 Myths About the Obama Executive Orders

Find Out How Many Executive Orders Obama Really Signed and What They Were About


The use of executive orders is a hot topic in American politics, and perhaps no more so during President Barack Obama's two terms in the White House. There have been all sorts of wild claims about Obama's use of executive orders to circumvent Congress and the Constitution.

Related Article: Executive Actions Versus Executive Orders

Here's a look at five myths surrounding Obama's use of executive orders, and the truth behind them.

1. Obama's First Executive Order Hid His Records From the Public

U.S. President Barack Obama signs an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Obama signed his very first executive order on Jan. 21, 2009, one day after being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. That much is true. The claim that Obama's first executive order was to "seal his records," though, is false.

Obama's first executive order actually did the opposite. It rescinded an earlier executive order signed by President George W. Bush severely limiting public access to presidential records after they left office.

2. Obama Is Seizing Guns By Executive Order

Obama's intention was clear: He promised to work toward reducing gun violence in the United States as part of his second term agenda. But his actions were anything but clear.

Obama called a press conference and announced he was issuing nearly two dozen "executive actions" addressing gun violence. The most significant actions called for universal background checks on anyone trying to buy a gun, restoring a ban on military-style assault weapons, and cracking down on straw purchases.

But it became clear that Obama's executive actions were far different than executive orders in their impact. Most of them carried no legal weight.

3. Obama Signed a Whopping 923 Executive Orders

Obama's use of the executive order has been the topic of so many viral emails, including the one that begins like this:

"When a President issued as many as 30 Executive Orders during a term in Office, people thought there was something amiss. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT 923 EXECUTIVE ORDERS IN ONE PART OF ONE TERM?????? YES, THERE IS A REASON. IT IS THAT THE PRESIDENT IS DETERMINED TO TAKE CONTROL AWAY FROM THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE."

In reality, though, Obama had used the executive order far less than any president in modern history. Even fewer than presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

4. Obama Will Issue An Executive Order Allowing Him to Serve a Third Term

There's been some speculation in conservative quarters that Obama intends to somehow circumvent, perhaps by executive order, the 22nd Amendment of the U.S Constitution, which reads in part: "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice ..."

Here's the bottom line: Obama's last day as president is January 20, 2017. He will not be able to win and serve a third term.

5. Obama Plans to Issue an Executive Order Killing Super PACs

It is true that Obama is both on the record about his disdain for super PACs and employing them as a fundraising tool at the same time. He has by turns blamed the Supreme Court for opening the floodgates to special interests and then said during the 2012 election, If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

But at no time has Obama suggested he would issue an executive order killing super PACs. What he's said is that Congress should consider a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court's landmark 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which led to the formation of super PACs.

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