Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
January 23, 2017; CBS News

On his first full working day in office, President Trump signed three executive memos. One withdraws the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement approved by President Obama but never ratified by the U.S. Senate. Another reinstates the Mexico City Policy, which requires that nonprofit organizations receiving federal funds, as originally stated in 1984, “would neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” Finally, Trump has instituted a government-wide federal employee hiring freeze, only exempting military hiring.

These three executive orders join the initial executive order signed Friday, directing federal agencies to seek ways to reduce the cost and burden of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, pending an expected “repeal and replace” effort by the administration and Congress.

There are a rumored 200 or more executive orders in some form of discussion or draft at the White House. Some expected many executive orders to be signed in the first few days of the administration, creating a “shock and awe” scenario. According to one unnamed White House source, Trump has opted instead for a “rolling thunder” approach, issuing fewer executive orders each day over a 30-day period.

NPQ reported last fall on the wide variety of issues and subjects affecting nonprofits which Trump promised to address using executive orders, especially reversing executive orders and executive actions taken by the previous administration. Mirroring a reduction of legislation passed through Congress, especially during his second term, Obama’s declaration that “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone“ signaled reliance upon executive orders, executive actions, and enacting “significant” regulations (those having more than a $100 million impact) to implement his policy decisions.

Assuming that only half the 200 rumored executive orders and executive actions are signed, that still means we’ll see about five per business day over the next month. Immigration, LGBT rights, climate change and energy production, and for-profit colleges are among the issue areas expected to be addressed by these presidential decisions.

The important next steps to watch—for supporters and opponents alike—are how many of Trump’s new and expected executive actions will be codified, or modified, by legislation. The problem with executive orders is that they are as fragile and transitory as presidential administrations. However, legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the president remains in force when a new president is elected. For those who seek regulatory change, securing executive action by the president is only half the battle; securing victory requires a law as well as regulations supporting and implementing that law.—Michael Wyland