The Republican reaction is to be expected, said John Woolley, co-director of the American Presidency Project at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

"For years there has been a growing concern about unchecked executive power," Woolley said. "It tends to have a partisan content, with contemporary complaints coming from the incumbent president's opponents."

The power isn't limitless, as was demonstrated when Obama issued one of his first executive orders, calling for closing the military prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba and trying suspected terrorists housed there in federal courts instead of by special military tribunals. Congress stepped in to prohibit moving any Guantanamo prisoners to the U.S., effectively blocking Obama's plan to shutter the jail.

Among recent actions:

â¿¿Obama issued presidential memoranda on guns in tandem with his legislative effort to expand background checks and ban assault-type weapons and large capacity magazines. The steps include renewing federal gun research despite a law that has been interpreted as barring such research since 1996. Gun control was off the table in the campaign, as it had been for a decade, but the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in December changed that overnight.

â¿¿The Labor Department approved new rules in January that could help save lives at dangerous mines with a pattern of safety violations. The rules were proposed shortly after an explosion killed 29 men at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine in 2010, deadliest mining accident in 40 years. The rules had been in limbo ever since because of objections from mine operators.

â¿¿The government proposed fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits in almost all food sold in schools, extending federal nutritional controls beyond subsidized lunches to include food sold in school vending machines and a la carte cafeteria lines. The new proposals flow from a 2010 law and are among several sidelined during the campaign.

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