News & Politics

Biden's First Executive Orders: Rejoin Paris Climate Deal and Rescind 'Muslim Ban'

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Joe Biden plans to continue governing the way his two immediate predecessors governed: by executive fiat. The number of executive orders began to grow during the Bush administration, skyrocketed under Barack Obama, and became the preferred way to govern for Donald Trump.

It’s not that Congress isn’t capable of addressing all these issues. It’s supposed to be their job. But both sides have thrown up their hands and surrendered to the idea that Congress is hopelessly “gridlocked” and could never pass legislation to address the problems that an executive order can deal with.

Have any of the three previous chief executives even tried very hard to get Congress to act? And by trying, I mean working with members of the congressional leadership to craft a bill, working the phones, schmoozing with members, or calling donors to put pressure on a member? There are a host of things a president can do to whip Congress into doing his bidding that Trump, Obama, and Bush failed to do.

I suppose a case could be made that without a smidgeon of bipartisanship, it’s impossible to move Congress. It’s a shame. A few more administrations that govern almost exclusively by executive order and Congress will become a useless appendage of government.

The new president is planning to issue an executive order that would rescind Donald Trump’s travel ban — referred to as a “Muslim Ban” in liberal circles — and order the U.S. to rejoin the Paris climate accords that Donald Trump wisely left in 2015.

The reason Biden is issuing an executive order for both is that Congress would probably oppose lifting the travel ban and would never in a million years voluntarily rejoin the Paris climate deal if it was presented as a treaty requiring 2/3 approval of the Senate. But Biden wants to make a splash during his first few days in office and signal that a new sheriff is in town and things are going to change radically.


After being sworn in on Wednesday, Biden will rescind the travel ban on several majority-Muslim countries, rejoin the Paris climate accords, extend limits on student loan payments and evictions instituted during the pandemicand issue a mask mandate on federal properties and for interstate travel. Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain outlined the flurry of activity for Biden’s first 10 days in office in a memo to senior staff on Saturday.

“These actions will change the course of COVID-19, combat climate change, promote racial equity and support other underserved communities, and rebuild our economy in ways that strengthen the backbone of this country: the working men and women who built our nation,” Klain wrote in the memo. “While the policy objectives in these executive actions are bold, I want to be clear: the legal theory behind them is well-founded and represents a restoration of an appropriate, constitutional role for the President.”

That’s not all. Biden plans a stunning array of executive orders for which he can’t be bothered getting the permission of the elected representatives of the United States.

On Biden’s second day in office, he will sign executive actions focused on addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, including ways to help schools and business reopen safely, expand testing, protect workers and establish clearer public health standards. The next day, Biden will direct his Cabinet to work on delivering economic relief to families most affected by the crisis.

In subsequent days, Biden will expand “Buy America provisions,” take action to advance “equity and support communities of color,” begin to reform the criminal justice, expand access to healthcare and work toward reuniting families separated at the border. Klain did not specify what these actions would entail, but the memo follows Biden’s introduction this week of his legislative agenda, which includes a $1.9 trillion relief bill.

How long before we’re required to bend the knee in our sovereign’s presence?

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