Biden’s Executive Order Frenzy
The 46th President has been busy signing proclamations signaling a new direction.
Fresh off his inauguration, President Joe Biden is signing executive orders at a record pace and is expected to sign many more in the days ahead. He is both quickly undoing much of the damage done by his predecessor and charting the course for the way ahead.
The first half-day was devoted to undoing Trump’s orders.
CNN (“Biden targets Trump’s legacy with first-day executive actions“):
President Joe Biden is finalizing 17 executive moves just hours after his inauguration Wednesday, moving faster and more aggressively to dismantle his predecessor’s legacy than any other modern president.
Biden is signing a flurry of executive orders, memorandums and directives to agencies, his first steps to address the coronavirus pandemic and undo some of former President Donald Trump’s signature policies.
“There’s no time to start like today,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office as he began signing a stack of orders and memoranda. “I’m going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people.”
With the stroke of a pen, Biden has halted funding for the construction of Trump’s border wall, reversed his travel ban targeting largely Muslim countries and embraced progressive policies on the environment and diversity that Trump spent four years blocking.
Biden also reversed several of Trump’s attempts to withdraw from international agreements, beginning the process of rejoining the Paris climate accord and halting the United States’ departure from the World Health Organization — where Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, will lead the US delegation.
His first action was to impose a mask mandate on federal property, a break in approach to dealing with the pandemic from Trump, who repeatedly downplayed the virus. Biden also installed a coronavirus response coordinator to oversee the White House’s efforts to distribute vaccines and medical supplies.
Yesterday, the first full day of his term, was devoted to the pandemic.
CNBC (“Here are the 10 executive orders Biden’s signing to combat the Covid pandemic“):
On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden announced 10 executive orders to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, mandating masks on public transportation and directing agencies to use wartime powers to require U.S. companies to make N95 masks, swabs and other equipment.
The president’s plan emphasizes ramping up testing for the coronavirus, accelerating the pace of vaccinations and providing more funding and direction to state and local officials, according to a copy of it released Thursday. A key component of the plan is restoring trust with the American public. It also focuses on vaccinating more people, safely reopening schools, businesses and travel as well as slowing the spread of the virus.
“The National Strategy provides a roadmap to guide America out of the worst public health crisis in a century,” the plan says. “America has always risen to the challenge we face and we will do so now.”
Biden has taken office at a pivotal moment in the pandemic. Nearly 3,000 Americans are dying every day of Covid-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and newly discovered strains that are more contagious are establishing footholds in the U.S., threatening to push the nation’s outbreak to even more deadly heights. The plan released Thursday expands on initiatives outlined last week and details how Biden plans to bring the outbreak under control and help the country recover.
Today, it’s on to the economy.
WaPo (“President Biden to increase federal food benefits among executive actions aimed at stabilizing U.S. economy“):
President Biden is expected on Friday to significantly increase federal food assistance for millions of hungry families among executive actions intended to stabilize the deterioration of the economy weighed down by the raging coronavirus pandemic.
Biden is asking the Department of Agriculture to allow states to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits — commonly known as food stamps — and to increase by 15 percent benefits awarded through a school meals program for low-income students started during the pandemic, according to Biden administration officials. That could give a family of three children more than $100 in extra benefits every two months, officials said.
A separate unilateral move aims to help get previously approved stimulus checks into the hands of Americans who haven’t received them yet. And another would ask the Labor Department to make clear that workers who refuse to return to working conditions that could expose them to the coronavirus should be eligible for unemployment insurance.
To the extent I have an opinion on these issues, they’re mostly policies I support. Trump’s “Muslim ban” made very little sense, in that it wasn’t targeted in a way that did much to enhance US security, leaving open travel from partner countries (including those with majority Muslim countries)that are much more of a terrorist threat than some (including non-Muslim majority countries) on the list. The border wall was, at best, a childish fantasy. Pulling out of the WHO was dumb. Pulling out of the Paris Accords did next to nothing for American business while harming America’s standing to lead on an important issue.
I don’t know enough about the how the aid programs he’s targeting today work to have a strong view. I tend to think that, in the midst of a pandemic, we should be generous with benefits. I’m skeptical that we should pay people in “essential” industries where others are risking exposure to the pandemic to voluntarily refuse to work. If nothing else, it seems grossly unfair to those doing the essential labor. But, given who he’s appointed to positions in the national security field, I trust that Biden is being advised by people who have spent a lot of time thinking through these issues.
I gather that Biden plans to continue the executive order frenzy next week as well, having daily themes. We’ll see what else is on the agenda.
Regardless of the merits of the policies, I continue my very longstanding objection to governance by executive fiat. Outside of short-term emergencies where normal order is precluded, few of these choices ought to be made solely on the whim of the President. While you may very well like it when this President does it, recall that we’ve just had a four year nightmare where a solipsistic, vengeful, moron had this authority.
Beyond that, I don’t understand where the President gets the authority to spend monies not appropriated by Congress. Or, for that matter, to dictate to states whether they may spend more of their own money.
Some of the moves are largely symbolic and the messaging is mostly good. Getting serious about the virus, climate change, and restoring the economy and America’s moral authority are worthwhile signals to send in the early days of the administration. Still, I hope we’ll soon get down to actually sending bills up to Capitol Hill to get down to the actual business of governing.