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PHOTO ESSAY

The Obama Presidency

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Executive Orders

President Obama signs executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women (Chuck Kennedy/Official White House Photo)

During his first two years, President Obama worked with a Democratic majority in both Houses to enact three major pieces of legislation: his $800 billion economic stimulus package in 2009, Obamacare, and the Dodd-Frank Act Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. Once the Republican Party won back the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014, however, the president relied increasingly on executive orders to pursue his economic agenda, notably on equal pay for women; minimum wage increases for federal employees; and environmental protections. Even before the Supreme Court's 2013 decision in support of gay marriage, the Obama administration had issued a series of executive orders ending the ban on people with H.I.V. entering the U.S; preventing health insurance companies from discriminating against gays and lesbians; opening up family and medical leave to gay couples; and ensuring that federal housing rules protected transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual couples. The refusal by the House to take up the cause of comprehensive immigration reform—passed by a bipartisan majority in the Senate in 2013—compelled Obama to take action. In 2014, he signed an order meant to protect as many as five million undocumented immigrants—most of whom had arrived as children—from deportation and allow them to work legally in the US.

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