Three years removed from the Obama administration, it seems, Joe Biden isn’t terribly enamored with the pen-and-phone method of governing. Unless, of course, he’s the one doing the governing.
At an event in Harwich Port, Massachusetts, Saturday, Biden chastised his rivals for believing that they could change things instantly through executive action on the first day of their administration.
Of course, don’t expect him to follow his own advice.
With a humorous bit of praise thrown in — Biden noted the “87 people running for president along with me, all good people,” according to the Washington Examiner — the former vice president also noted they were making problematic assurances to their supporters that they would be able to undo policies they don’t like with a swipe of a pen.
“You can’t do a lot by executive order. You can do some things, but you can’t, you need to generate a consensus,” Biden told those gathered outside a coffee shop and beer garden.
The most obvious target here is California Sen. Kamala Harris, who’s promised to enact gun control legislation by fiat if Congress doesn’t give her exactly what she desires in her first 100 days of the presidency; this includes universal background checks, a ban the importation of so-called “assault weapons” and other fun stuff.
During a recent appearance on CNN during the Philadelphia standoff (always a sensitive, decorous time to allow presidential candidates on to press for their gun control policies, especially given the fact that it later turned out the shooter had no legal right to own any gun), Wolf Blitzer asked her about the incongruence here: “Why not take executive action on day one?”
“I believe in giving people a chance, especially when they know what’s coming if they don’t act,” Harris said.
She believes in giving Congress a chance to do what she wants. If it doesn’t do what she wants, she’ll do what she wants. It doesn’t sound much better when you hear her say it, either:
She’s not the only one following this strategy on the campaign trail, either.
Sen. Bernie Sanders says that he’ll use executive action to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level. Insert your own Vermont joke here.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, meanwhile, has proposed less-sweeping gun control measures via executive action, saying she would close the “boyfriend loophole” — in which non-married partners convicted of domestic violence are still allowed to purchase a firearm — via executive action.
Biden insisted you didn’t need this sort of executive action because there was a consensus among Americans about doing the right thing — which one assumes, from long experience, is exactly what he’s proposing.
“The vast majority of Americans, if you look at every issue, agree somewhere between 52 and 65 percent, whether it’s infrastructure, whether it’s health care, whatever it is,” Biden told the audience, according to the Cape Cod Times.
“There’s an overwhelming consensus among Democrats and Republicans of the basic things that have to be done,”
On the same day in another Cape Cod town — this time South Yarmouth — he again told supporters he was being a naughty Democrat by willing to utter the b-word: bipartisanship.
“There’s an awful lot of really good Republicans out there,” Biden said. “I get in trouble for saying that with Democrats, but the truth of the matter is, every time we ever got in trouble with our administration, remember who got sent up to Capitol Hill to fix it? Me.
“Because they know I respect the other team. I do. They’re decent people. They ran because they care about things, but they’re intimidated right now.”
Well, give him credit for not mentioning his 1970s work with Dixiecrat segregationists as a symbol of just how bipartisan he can be. That must have been difficult for him, I know.
The problem? Biden apparently forgot he’s promised this whole “day one” executive action nonsense on his own accord, especially on the environment.
Take the climate change platform on his website. (Please, as Henny Youngman might say.)
“On day one, Biden will sign a series of new executive orders with unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama-Biden Administration platform and put us on the right track,” one part of the platform reads.
“And, he will demand that Congress enacts legislation in the first year of his presidency that: 1) establishes an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025, 2) makes a historic investment in clean energy and climate research and innovation, 3) incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change.”
In the platform, the exact words “day one” are used no less than five times in four different contexts, including the one above.
On day one, “Biden will make smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change.”
“The United States must have a bold plan to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050 here at home. On day one, Biden will sign a series of executive orders that put us on this track,” another part of the platform reads.
And, “[o]n day one, Biden will use the full authority of the executive branch to make progress and significantly reduce emissions,” including introducing strict new methane limits for oil and gas production, investing in clean energy vehicles for both personal transportation, investing in agriculture-based biofuels (boy, does he ever want to win those Iowa caucuses) and “[e]nsuring that all U.S. government installations, buildings, and facilities are more efficient and climate-ready, harnessing the purchasing power and supply chains to drive innovation.”
He will achieve that last one, I can only assume, by synergizing America’s core competencies through blue-sky thinking and a win-win mentality. Whatever the case, all of these “day one” proposals require executive action — which is exactly what Biden says he wants to guard against.
It’s not like this went unnoticed, either. In a commentary piece for USA Today titled “Joe Biden’s climate plan hinges on a lazy governing tactic,” Nancy Jacobson of the bipartisan group No Labels pointed out the fatal flaw in this plan.
“If the nation shifts between Democratic and Republican presidents, each successive administration can simply rescind the policy of the previous one,” Jacobson wrote in a June piece published shortly after Biden’s climate plan was released.
“That’s what Trump did to Obama’s climate-oriented fiats. And that’s what a subsequent Republican president would do to Biden’s climate-oriented executive orders. This is no way to govern. Not only do these executive orders cut against our constitutional system and enrage the other party — they rarely withstand the test of time.”
And that’s a lesson you would have assumed Biden would have learned. It was Barack Obama, after all, who famously warned his opponents, “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” He did, and so has his successor.
Thusly have so many Obama “accomplishments” been wiped away, most notably the former president’s immigration reform package that skipped Congress because Congress wouldn’t approve it.
I could also note that Biden was vice president for the entirety of this and hasn’t offered anything in the way of an apology — or that he’s bragging that he was the guy who got sent up to Capitol Hill to fix these messes as if this is some kind of positive — but it’s not as if we hadn’t already established the kind of hypocrite we were dealing with here.
The current love for the executive action is based on the fact that the Democrats, even if they win the White House, might not regain the Senate or retain the House. Even if they do regain the Senate, there’s still the issue of whether their cohort wants to do away with the filibuster and invoke the nuclear option on everything. Once it gets undone, after all, it won’t get redone — something the Democrats found out with some degree of pain when Harry Reid’s disposal of the filibuster led to the confirmations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
If not, even the most moderate of Democrat candidates are going to have trouble finding support for their proposals. Joe Biden says they should resist the temptation and work across the aisle to achieve their solutions.
Not that he’s going to do that, mind you. But it makes for some nice sound bites, doesn’t it?
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