Skip to Main Content

Guide to Government Information

Glossary of Presidential Power

Executive Order: An official, legally-binding document issued by the President. Executive orders are numbered and must be published in the Federal Register. The purpose of an executive order is to instruct agencies in the executive branch how to interpret and carry out laws.

Executive Memorandum: Much like an executive order, but it is not numbered and does not need to be published in the Federal Register. The Obama administration published memoranda on the White House website, and the Trump administration is doing the same, however, there is no requirement to publish executive memoranda.

Proclamation: This type of presidential action is not legally binding and is used for ceremonial purposes, for example, declaring that flags be flown at half-mast.

Veto: After bills pass the House and Senate they are presented to the President for his/her signature. If the president chooses not sign the bill into law, this an exercise of the presidential veto power.

Find an Executive Order

Historical Context