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President George W. Bush issued 196 executive orders during his first five years in office, including more than a dozen in 2001 stemming from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. President Clinton issued 239 during his first five years in office.

Legislative battles

Other items in the president’s inbox include a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, deadlines and administrative challenges for Obamacare, congressional authority to complete ambitious trade deals with the European Union and a group of Pacific Rim nations, and grinding foreign policy crises such as the civil war in Syria and the end of combat activity in Afghanistan.

The legislative battles in which Mr. Obama chooses to engage will be fought in the Senate, where majority Democrats have eliminated the filibuster for executive branch and judicial nominees. If Republicans win back control of the Senate in November, the president is unlikely to find them in an accommodating mood.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Democrats are trying to ram through proposals without regard to the minority party.

“The Senate rules are now just as optional to Washington Democrats as the Obamacare mandates they decide they don’t like,” Mr. McConnell said shortly before Congress adjourned for the year. “All of which obviously makes a mockery of our institutions and our laws, and all of which suggests that this is a majority that has zero confidence in its own ideas. This is a majority that can’t allow the minority to have a meaningful say when it comes to nominees. This is a majority that won’t allow members to offer amendments when it counts.”

Meeting of the minds?

One of the few prospects for bipartisan achievement in 2014 could be immigration reform. Although Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, has said the House won’t pass the Senate’s comprehensive plan, some Republicans believe the House will approve at least some portions of the Senate bill.

“Anything that gets done on the legislative front will get done because Republicans want it, and I would put immigration in that category,” Mr. Feehery said.