WASHINGTON — Amid mounting criticism of his record-pace executive order blitz — including from liberal media outlets like the New York Times — President Biden refused to take questions from reporters Thursday as he signed two more such actions.
The president’s latest orders will open a special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act and end the “Mexico City Policy” that bans US federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling.
“Today I’m about to sign two executive orders to, basically, the best way to describe them, undo the damage Trump has done,” Biden told pool reporters.
In a bid to undo many of the initiatives of the previous Trump administration, Biden has signed a record 40 executive actions in his first week in office.
But the unilateral actions have seen the president catch heat from some of his biggest allies, including the Times, which on Thursday urged Biden to “ease up” and instead of ruling by fiat, legislate via the narrowly divided Congress.
Executive actions can be easily reversed by the following commander-in-chief.
“[T]his is no way to make law. A polarized, narrowly divided Congress may offer Mr. Biden little choice but to employ executive actions or see his entire agenda held hostage,” the Times editorial board wrote in an op-ed published Thursday.
“These directives, however, are a flawed substitute for legislation.”
At a briefing Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back on questions from reporters suggesting that Biden’s slew of executive actions went against his own calls for “unity” in Washington.
Psaki said Biden had made clear that he didn’t believe executive action should be used for everything, but claimed the president needed to move quickly to undo the signature policies of the Trump administration.
“There are steps, including overturning some of the harmful, detrimental, and, yes, immoral actions of the prior administration that he felt he could not wait to overturn, and that’s exactly what he did,” Psaki insisted.
“Any historian will tell you that he walked into the presidency at one of the most difficult moments in history that required additional executive action in order to get immediate relief to the American people,” she said, adding that Biden believed in working with Congress and was going to “use the levers that every president in history has used.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell last week said Biden’s EO blitz was the “wrong direction,” while even Biden himself appeared to be against presidential overuse of executive actions.
“We are a democracy,” Biden said during a town hall with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on the campaign trail in October.
“Some of my Republican friends and some of my Democratic friends even occasionally say, ‘Well, if you can’t get the votes, by executive order, you’re going to do something,'” he went on.
“Things you can’t do by executive order unless you’re a dictator. We’re a democracy. We need consensus,” he said.
Last week, Kay James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said she was disappointed by the “unprecedented scope” of Biden’s orders.
“Executive actions short circuit the democratic process by cutting out Congress and leaving no room for debate or dissent,” James said in a statement.
As he signed two more orders in the space of two minutes Thursday, Biden refused to take shouted questions from reporters as they were hustled out of the Oval Office.
“We’ve got a lot to do and the first thing I’ve got to do is get this COVID package passed,” he said of his enormous $1.9 trillion rescue package, which Republicans have already bristled at.