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How does Obama's time as a lame duck compare to past presidents?

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President Barack Obama isn't taking his last months in office easy. Obama has already announced that he is rolling back the number of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, is halting drilling in the Arctic, and commuting the sentences of 153 people (as well as pardoning 78).

So how does Obama late term flurry compare to other presidents? 

Well to gain some perspective, let's look at Obama's most recent two-term predecessors: President George W. Bush and  President Bill Clinton. 

Clinton's lame duck record

The period between the November election and inauguration (provided the president hasn't won a second term) is when the commander-in-chief is referred to as a lame duck. According to the Justice Department, Clinton pardoned more than 200 individuals while he was a lame duck. This included the highly controversial pardoning of Marc Rich and Clinton's younger half-brother, Roger. 

Clinton also issued 21 executive orders in his final months, according to Cabrini professor James Hedtke. 

Some of the executive orders included a prohibition on importing diamonds from Sierra Leone, protecting Hawaii's coral reef ecosystem, and a controversial workplace ergonomics rule which was quickly repealed once Bush took office.

In December of 1999, Clinton signed onto the 1998 Rome Treaty on the International Criminal Court. Bush later withdrew the U.S. from the agreement.

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President Clinton and President-elect Bush pose for photographers as they head to the Oval Office at the White House Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2000. Bush met with Clinton and was shown around the White House for the first time since the election. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

There were also 55 major regulations implemented while Clinton was a lame duck, according to George Washington University's Regulatory Studies Center.

Bush as a lame duck

During George W. Bush's time as a lame duck, America was trying to prevent the recession from becoming a full-fledged economic depression.

To help fend off an economic crisis, Bush bailed out American auto manufacturers. Congress had been unable to come to an agreement on how best to save the industry. Bush, without Congress, redirected funds from TARP, a Wall Street bailout bill, to help save U.S. automakers. 

While the economic downturned received most of the attention in late 2008, Bush also signed an accord with Iraq outlining the parameters for U.S. troops remaining in the country through 2011. 

In addition to his work on Iraq and the auto industry, Bush implemented 55 major regulations while he was a lame duck President, according to George Washington University's Regulatory Studies Center.  However, he only issued 8 executive orders and 18 pardons as a lame duck, according to Hedtke.


So Obama's last minute activity is not unusual when compared to recent presidents, though GW's Regulatory Studies Center projects he will issue 77 new regulations, more than previous presidents.  

By issuing his executive order on offshore drilling, Obama is showing that he isn't afraid to follow in his predecessor's footsteps in bypassing Congress. 


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