What’s the Difference Between Presidential Executive Orders and Executive Actions?

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Executive Orders

Executive orders are official documents the President of the United States creates to establish policies and manage the operations of the federal government. Executive orders are like laws, and can be reversed by the courts and Congress.

Each Executive order is signed by the President and given a number. The text of Executive orders appears in the Federal Register, the daily newspaper of the federal government, published by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Explore the Executive Orders Disposition Tables Index, which lists Executive orders from 1937 to 2016. Visit the White House’s website for recent Presidential Executive orders.

Executive Actions

“Executive actions” or “Presidential actions” are broader terms that can include not just Executive orders, but also Presidential memoranda and proclamations.

Like Executive orders, Presidential memoranda can create laws, while proclamations carry no legal weight. They function as ways the President can let Congress, the heads of federal agencies, and the public know about events and issues that are important to him or her.

Visit the White House’s website for recent Presidential Executive actions.

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Page last updated: Mar 6th, 2017