April 23, 2015
President Obama never used the words "executive action" until nearly three years into his presidency. Now announcements of executive actions have become a routine, almost daily occurrence.
WASHINGTON — As
President Obama stood in an Everglades swamp to speak on climate change Wednesday, the White House rolled out a package of eight executive actions, implemented by seven government agencies, to "protect the people and places that climate change puts at risk."
The announcement contained no executive orders, sweeping directives, legislative proposals or bill signings.
Instead, the actions include smaller-bore staples of a "pen-and-phone" strategy that shows no sign of letting up: a report on the value of parks to the environment, a proclamation declaring National Parks Week, and conservation efforts in Florida, Hawaii, Puget Sound and the Great Lakes.
White House Press Secretary
Josh Earnest said the actions were an effort to deal with the impacts of climate change "even in the face of pretty significant opposition from Republicans in Congress."
Indeed, the actions have a political component, part of a White House strategy to work around Congress and force Republicans to respond to the president's agenda.
"Since the election, the president has had a pretty explicit strategy," said
Brian Deese, a senior Obama adviser. "And it has consisted of trying to stay on offense, trying to push where he can to move the agenda through executive action. You're going to keep seeing the president in that posture going forward."
"Executive action" — a phrase Obama never uttered publicly in the first two and a half years of his presidency — has now become so routine that new announcements come several times a week.
The actions can take many forms, from formal executive orders and presidential memoranda to more routine reports, meetings and internal bureaucratic changes. That makes any definitive count of lower-level executive actions difficult.
But by one measure, such policy rollouts are actually increasing in pace. The White House often announces executive actions with a fact sheet from the press office, and those spiked last year during what Obama called the "Year of Action." The White House issued 228 fact sheets in 2014, more than the first three years of his presidency combined.