Joe Biden has served as US President for nearly two months. In this period of time, he has addressed the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign policy and the environment, all by signing over 40 executive orders.
Executive orders are not the same as laws. The Heritage Foundation says that, “an executive order is a type of written instruction that presidents use to work their will through the executive branch of government. Congress and federal courts can strike down executive orders that exceed the scope of the president’s authority.”
“A large portion of President Biden’s initial executive orders are focused on reversing policies of the Trump Administration,” said Jacob Keeley (’24), president of the Alma College Republicans. “While [it is] within the powers of the President to take such steps, it is important to note that a Presidency based on undoing… sets a dangerous precedent [and leaves] the nation stagnant in terms of leadership and divided politically.”
Biden, as promised, has enacted policies to combat the effects of the pandemic. First, Biden signed a $1.9T relief package which extends unemployment aid, distinguishes the first $10,200 in jobless benefits tax free and allocates $20B for vaccine distribution. Lost in this provision was the minimum wage increase, which House democrats were hopeful to pass.
Biden has also allocated $250M to encourage COVID-19 safety and vaccination in underserved populations, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Biden has also taken foreign policy action. He has placed sanctions on Myanmar with the support of the UN and has ordered airstrikes against Syria, escalating tensions in already-stalling negotiations with Iran.
“President Biden’s executive order taking economic action against those involved with the military coup in [Myanmar] was an important action for the United States to take,” said Keeley.
The strikes in eastern Syria were reportedly in response to Iran-backed militias who instigated a rocket attack on Feb. 15 which harmed American citizens. Despite this, Biden still intends to reopen negotiations regarding the Iranian nuclear deal tabled by the Trump administration, according to the NY Times.
Biden’s environmental agenda aims to guide the US towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Climate-related executive orders included, but were not limited to, directing 40% of federal sustainability investments to disadvantaged communities, rejoining the UN Paris Agreement and WHO and halting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. These policies were popular with activists on the left and generally disliked by Senate republicans.
“[Biden’s steps] to stop the U.S’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization… should be [a unifying] factor for the country; however, it is important that President Biden recognizes and grants the republican minority party opportunities… to voice its input and make suggestions on these matters,” said Keeley.
Biden’s Presidential campaign was largely based on unity and bipartisanship. Despite the high volume of executive orders, many remain hopeful that compromise and the interests of everyone will remain at the forefront of his priorities.
“The Alma College Republicans stand by the President as he attempts to lead the charge for unification,” said Keeley on behalf of the Alma College Republicans. “Unity in the United States requires President Biden to…establish policy that works for all Americans”