A Whirlwind of Executive Action

Executive orders have been a crucial part of the presidential branch’s power, with every president having signed at least one during their time in office. While Congress is unable to reverse an executive order, it does have the ability to pass legislation that indirectly harms the execution of the order (like reducing funding for a certain project). Since President Joe Biden’s first days in office, he’s signed off on a whirlwind of executive orders encompassing the coronavirus pandemic,  immigration, climate change, as well as legislation to reverse many Trump-era policies. With 28 orders signed in his first two weeks of office and 40 up to date, Biden has been keen on taking action in a timely manner. When questioned about the immense amount of executive orders he’d been signing, the President explained that he is “not making new law,” but rather “eliminating bad policy.” 


Beginning with a focus on health, Biden enforced policies to both effectively curb coronavirus contraction and death rates, as well as plans to prevent future pandemics. His orders call for an acceleration in the manufacturing and delivery of COVID vaccine supplies, testing, and personal protective equipment. He has established a Pandemic Testing Board and a COVID-19 health equity task force and created the position of a COVID-19 response coordinator. Furthermore, he’s urged an enhancement of the nation’s coronavirus data, promoted guidance for safely reopening & operating schools, and outlined a preclinical program to increase the development of therapeutics in response to potential future pandemics. He’s also issued that Americans should wear masks in airports and other specific transportation hubs in addition to challenging the public to wear a mask for 100 days. With these orders and a few more in his first month of office, Biden is attempting to create plans on progressing forward and rectifying the nation after the effects of the pandemic. 

Another set of Biden’s executive orders have been concentrated on immigration, and more specifically on revoking the Trump Administration’s immigration policies. He started by reversing Tump’s expansion of immigration enforcement as well as Trump’s memo that mandated immigrants to repay the federal government if they acquired any form of public benefits. He then dismantled Trump’s policy that separated families at the border and created a task force to reunite families that suffered at the hands of the previous rule. To continue reaching his goal of increasing the inclusion of immigrants, Biden expanded the US Refugee admission program, consequently revoking the Trump policies that imposed the opposite ideas. 


In terms of the environment, Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Accord (after Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018). To accompany this development, he prioritized climate change as a part of both US foreign policy and national security and encouraged the development of a new emissions reduction target. Biden has also taken action on the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial oil pipeline that harmed the indigenous population, led to dozens of oil spills, and exacerbated greenhouse gas emissions. While advocates of the pipelines argued that the tar sands industry will discover a way to tar sands oil dealing even without Keystone XL, Biden passed an executive order the cancelled the pipeline, once more reinforcing his seriousness in tackling climate change. 


Recently, Biden has passed a number of orders regarding the economy. First, as COVID-19 has created food insecurity, an order plans to offer assistance to those who are struggling to access sustainable sources of food. Secondly, to protect workers, he restored collective bargaining power. Third, he strengthened Buy America rules to support American companies, manufacturers, and workers. These rules ensure that any spending by the federal government using taxpayer dollars will be used on American made products. 


Equity, another spotlight of Biden’s election platform, has been addressed through executive orders as well. He imposed preventative measures to combat workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He also took the opportunity to reverse one of Trump’s policies that discriminated against transgender Americans, as it barred them from joining the military.  Furthermore, he eliminated the 1776 Commission, which focused on offering students a “patriotic education.” This legislation now engenders the question of identifying the next step in properly increasing civic education. 


 While President Biden has only been in office for approximately a month, he has begun operations and is pursuing the plans he delineated in his election campaign. A key tool in allowing him to achieve this has been executive orders. While his ideas have both harsh adversaries and fervent supporters, time will be able to determine the consequences of his policies. 

Picture Credit: “Vice President Joe Biden visit to Israel March 2016” by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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