Comparing Past Presidents' Executive Orders

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State of the Union

With his policies often blocked by a divided Congress, President Obama has promised an alternative. “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone,” he said ahead of his State of the Union address, simplifying his intention to enact change through executive power. Not surprisingly, that plan wasn’t welcomed on the right. “The president's taste for unilateral action to circumvent Congress should concern every citizen, regardless of party or ideology” asserted Sen. Ted Cruz in last week’s Wall Street Journal. Insisted Sen. Rand Paul: “Someone who wants to bypass the Constitution, bypass Congress -- that's someone who wants to act like a king or a monarch."

But how much power does the president really have?  And who has wielded it most in recent history? Read on to learn what executive orders can accomplish, what they can’t, and how the number of orders Obama has issued stacks up against those of other presidents. (We singled out the five highest totals among postwar commanders in chief; the numbers reflect their entire stay in office.)

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