President Biden signed 28 executive orders and 12 executive actions such as memorandums, proclamations, and agency directives only nine days upon sitting on the throne. One would notice the agility of such a move, record-breaking in fact, against any former U.S. presidents within the same timeframe.
Some of the president’s measures include reversals of a number of his predecessor’s policies, such as halting the funding for the construction of former President Trump’s signature border wall and cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, which Trump revived after former President Obama’s axing.
Biden’s camp also included pandemic-related measures, such as the mask mandate on federal property; ramping up government-wide pandemic response coordination; and reinstating the travel restrictions on non-U.S. citizens from South Africa, Brazil, and much of Europe.
Biden’s first day in the White House was spent on several memorandums and executive orders: promoting racial equity; rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change; requiring mask-wearing on federal property; pausing federal student loan payments; freezing approval of rules passed during Trump’s final office days; strengthening the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects illegal immigrants who arrived in the country as children from deportation.
On Thursday, the president signed an executive order to expand medical coverage and a presidential memo repealing the ban on U.S. funding for international nonprofit organizations that provide referrals or counseling for abortion.
It might be unlikely for Biden to keep up the furious pace of signing executive orders since critics have voiced concerns on his early reliance on executive action in contrast to his pledge of being a consensus builder.
Even the left-leaning New York Times, which endorsed Biden in the race, ran a story on Thursday entitled, “Ease up on the Executive Actions, Joe,” adding that “this is no way to make law.”
The outlet’s editorial board pointed out Biden’s directives as a “flawed substitute for legislation,” adding that the executive orders “are not meant to serve as an end-run around the will of Congress.”
In his Senate speech on Thursday, Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested that Biden’s flurry of executive measures signify dictatorship.
McConnell jabbed the president’s orders that canceled the Keystone XL pipeline permit, which imposed a moratorium on new leases on gas and oil drilling. The senator argued that the move undercut the country’s energy independence and even threaten jobs.
“According to one study, the decision on federal lands will leave us down nearly one million American jobs by next year alone,” exclaimed McConnell. “It’s a heck of a way to kick off a presidency.”
Biden’s camp defended the president’s heavy reliance on executive actions, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki commenting on a Thursday press briefing that, “He is going to use the levers that every president in history has used: executive actions.”
“But he also feels it’s important to work with Congress, and not just one party—both parties—to get things done,” added Psaki. Meanwhile, Biden framed his latest executive order as a move to “undo the damage Trump has done” instead of “initiating any new law.” He also noted to have been persuading the lawmakers in Congress to pass his pandemic aid package amounting to $1.9 trillion through a legislative process.
Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director, bristled at the Times’ criticism of the president’s executive order in a tweetstorm, writing, “I can’t help but recall that during the primary they encouraged voters to consider what a president could accomplish” through executive action.
Psaki also noted at a Friday briefing that Biden would sign an executive order to modernize the U.S. immigration system by Tuesday.