Well, friends, we’re one week into a Biden presidency and we’ve only made it to day two of our semi-deep dive into the new president’s executive orders. Congratulations, and kudos for hanging on! It’s been a lot to take in, we know — and given that there are still yet many more orders to unpack, the mind indeed reels.
To date, President Biden has signed a staggering 34 executive orders – more than any president in history at this point in an administration – a fact that has drawn the ire of many across the U.S., in part because of what it says about his views on executive power, and in part because it represents a departure from Biden’s campaign verbiage. In an October television appearance, Biden told voters, there ae “things you can’t do by executive order unless you’re a dictator. We’re a democracy. We need a consensus.” The president has evidently walked back that belief. For perspective, Trump signed four executive orders during his first three days in office. Obama signed five… Biden, 22.
VERIFY: Yes, President Biden signed more executive orders in his first week than any past president.
Day two in the Oval Office was another busy day – perhaps not quite as busy as day one, but if coffee is your thing, now might be the right time…
Even as his feet hit the floor in the morning, plans were already underway to begin the $1.2 million renovations on the restrooms inside the East Wing building where the first lady’s offices are located, and where Mrs. Biden will very likely spend quite a lot of time.
Likely by the time President Biden had finished his cereal (which may or may not have been served on the presidential throne — we won’t speculate), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was already set to file articles of impeachment against him. According to reports, Greene’s articles cite four impeachable “scandals.” 1: Sexual Assault allegations (Biden’s former Senate staffer, Tara Reade, accused him of assaulting her in 1993. Purportedly, she has seven pieces of corroborating testimony and evidence to back up her allegations). 2: Illegal Spying on a Rival Campaign (According to the articles, President Biden lied about his knowledge of the Obama administration’s role in illegally framing President Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, for lying to the FBI. Purportedly, there is evidence in place that Biden was directly involved in the campaign, and that he was one of the White House execs involved in domestic spying, which, if proven, is illegal). 3: The Use of U.S. Aid to Protect His Son (Hunter Biden) from a Ukrainian Prosecutor (It has been claimed that Joe Biden threatened to withhold American aid from Ukraine for self-dealing reasons (to protect Hunter), which, if true, is illegal). 4: Hunter Biden and China (President Barack Obama put Biden in charge of relations with two countries: Ukraine and China. In both cases, Hunter Biden was allegedly used to exploit those countries and found himself engaged in some backdoor dealings that implicate President Biden).
As if that weren’t enough for one morning, President Biden also woke to some unwelcomed heat in the form of the National Guard. Members of the National Guard were ousted by Capitol police and isolated to a nearby parking garage. Capitol representatives claimed the garage was heated, but the National Guardsmen have refuted those claims. One guardsman told reporters, “Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed.” There was public outrage surrounding the incident, which prompted quick action by several citizens, including President Trump, who publicly offered the Trump Hotel as a space for the troops. State representatives were angered by the incident, prompting some to push for a recall of their Guardsmen from the Capitol assignment. For example, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said he planned to take quick action to bring his state’s National Guard troops back home immediately. However, in response to the backlash, many people also pointed out that, though the situation was not ideal, most military members have repeatedly endured far worse conditions while in service to the country.
Despite all that was happening in the background, President Biden attempted to continue the momentum of day one by enacting a number of executive orders and attending a number of federal events and briefings (The president and vice president have long received a daily brief concerning a myriad of issues within the government and across the United States). On the morning of day two, the president, vice president, first lady and second gentleman also attended a Virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service and then at 2 PM President Biden delivered remarks concerning his administration’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic.
In an address, the President told viewers, “there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months,” which opened the door for harsh criticism from his opposition, as his administration had framed his mask mandates, forthcoming travel ban, and several other actions as methods to, in fact, change the trajectory of the virus. Following his remarks, the president began signing the executive orders and presidential actions we have outlined below.
Following the same format of the content for day one, the breakdown of each executive order and action consists of an explanation and an attempt to clarify the goings-on in layman’s terms. Additionally, any overtly controversial action is headed with the phrase “controversy alert.”
1) On the afternoon of his second day in office, President Biden signed an executive order to make facemasks mandatory for air travel and other commercial transportation.
During an address he delivered on day one, Biden stated, “We’ll be signing an additional executive action to extend masking requirements on interstate travel, like on trains, planes and buses.” By day two, he’d made good on his word. The majority of major airlines and other travel organizations have had their own mask mandates in place for several months. However, the sweeping executive order will ensure those interstate travelers using commercial transportation are required to wear a mask during travel regardless of a company’s own specific policies. His administration asserts that the move is part of their concerted effort to eliminate Covid-19 and the threat it imposes upon the American people.
In addition, President Biden’s executive action makes coronavirus testing mandatory for anyone traveling to the United States from another country. Any and all international travelers will be required to test negative before boarding the flight and, despite a negative test, upon landing, international travelers will also be required to self quarantine (a measure that many have argued will be impossible to enforce).
Earlier in 2020, the Trump administration elected to forgo a national mask mandate for transportation. The administration asserted that masking decisions should be made by individual state governments and localities in order to avoid Constitutional rights violations. The Trump administration argued that a federal mask mandate is a government overreach. While Biden’s camp considers the issue a response to a national health crisis, his critics believe the move to be dictatorial.
Biden’s federal mask mandates currently apply to federal property and interstate travel. They are not nation-wide mandates and there is no legal authority to allow the president to enact a nationwide mask mandate. However, the federal government does have the power to regulate actions on federal property and/or in federal facilities. The travel mandate is a contestable subject, but, the Public Health Service Act does include a provision that grants the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to issue certain regulations if needed “to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession.” Many of Biden’s supporters see a mask requirement through the same lense as a seatbelt requirement — a temporary restraint to help save lives.
Critics of federal mask mandates assert that the move is unconstitutional. A number of groups are in protest of any federal mask mandate, arguing that mask mandates, when challenged by the due process clause, would fail under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court and that Congress would never pass such an order on its own, implying that Biden’s executive order is a direct violation of American constitutional rights. The premise behind this belief is hinged on a previous Supreme Court case ruling that the government cannot force individuals to purchase and use specific health insurance in order to help promote a national healthcare system (NFIB vs. Seblius). In parallel, critics of the move say neither can the government legally force people to purchase and wear facemasks in order to promote national health.
Those who agree with Trump’s concerns about government overreach believe that forcing Americans to wear masks opens the door for the government to force a similar hand in the future, and argue that such a requirement is a violation of the 9th Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment (They cite that the U.S. Supreme Court holds firm that an individual has a fundamental right to travel, eat, and choose what to wear or what to read. Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 125 (1958). Also, that the choice of what a person wears is a personal matter for the individual and not a matter of government regulation. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S.15, 25 (1971) “The right to control the appearances of one’s own body means a person has the right to be let alone – the most comprehensive of rights and a right most valued by civilized men.” Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438,478 (Brandeis, J., dissenting). The right to choose one’s dress and appearance “is a personal freedom protected under the Ninth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Crews v. Cloncs, 432 F.2d 1259 (7th Cir. 1970); Breen v. Kahl, 419 F.2d 1034 (7th Cir. 1969)).
2) Biden signed an executive order called “Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatment for COVID-19.”
With this order, President Biden established a new drug discovery and development program that emphasizes diversity in clinical trials and explores therapeutics. This order also serves as an expansion upon programs that are already in place that are designed to support patients recovering from Covid-19, as well as increase the healthcare workforce. This order directs the secretary of Health and Human Services to support research into “the most promising treatments for COVID-19 and future high-consequence public health threats” and to “provide targeted surge assistance to critical care and long-term care facilities.”
The controversy surrounding this order comes from the fact that it seems to direct the government to support and uphold efforts for which democrats previously criticized the Trump administration; for example, the order to investigate therapies such as those that were publicly disparaged by the Biden camp at the height of the coronavirus outbreak. You may recall the “Frontline Doctors” who were critcized by democrat polticians and the mainstream press outlets for publicly declaring success in treating the virus with alternative therapies. Critics of Biden claim his orders shine light on a deep-seated partisan effort to pursue political gain above the good of the American people.
3) President Biden issued still more Covid-19-related mandates by directing agencies to boost reliance on data in the administration’s coronavirus response. In short, the order requires agencies to “facilitate the gathering, sharing and publication of Covid-19-related data.”
The order itself is an effort to garner public support by keeping people informed of the administration’s decision-making where the virus is concerned, as well as improve public understanding of the pandemic. As part of the order, several government departments will be required to appoint a “senior official to serve as their agency’s lead to work on COVID-19” That leader will then “take steps to make data relevant to high-consequence public health threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, publicly available and accessible.” So far, pushback on this order has been minimal. However, many people (on both sides of the aisle) have lost confidence in the data-gathering process, as a myriad of errors and issues have already been made public, leaving many Americans to assume the issue is too far gone, and that none of the data can be fully trusted. Further, they believe that because the current numbers have no stable base and no adequate starting point, even if the data-gathering process were to be updated, the outcomes will remain irreparably flawed.
Despite assurances of accuracy in the media, the CDC has confirmed data reporting errors a number of times, and the CDC director publicly confirmed, during a House hearing investigating the federal government’s response to the pandemic, that death records have been inflated and also confirmed that there is, in fact, financial incentives for hospitals to record coronavirus deaths. Additionally, similar issues have been seen in various states across the U.S., which leaves many people believing Biden’s order is related to optics only.
4) Biden signed a memorandum to support state use of the National Guard to respond to the coronavirus.
Biden sent a memorandum to the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security ordering them to boost federal support for National Guard deployments, including directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to “fund 100 percent of the cost of activities associated with all mission assignments for the use of the National Guard…to respond to COVID-19.”
In May 2020, President Trump announced plans to utilize the military as part of the Covid-19 vaccine distribution chain. He highlighted the activation of National Guard troops in states all across the U.S. At the time, many media outlets openly reported his assertions as an error, stating that the military would not have a visible role in the distribution of the vaccine.
However, President Biden’s memorandum seems to echo President Trump’s statements, as well as support Trump’s previous logistical plan, as it has provided individual states with the authority to utilize and activate the National Guard for the specific purpose of distributing the vaccine.
The memo directed the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to support governors who elect to deploy the National Guard in efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. An endeavor that will be fully funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
5) The president signed an executive order to secure the strength of the national supply chain where Covid-19 supplies are concerned.
President Biden also signed an executive order directing a number of departments of the government to “review the availability of critical materials, treatments, and supplies needed to combat Covid-19. Reportedly, the order empowers agencies to “take appropriate action using all available legal authorities, including The Defense Production Act.” The goal of the order will be to find and fill any shortfalls in PPE and other supplies necessary in fighting the pandemic.
So far, this order has received very little criticism and appears to be a continuation of efforts by the Trump administration to ensure the production and of personal protective equipment and treatments for Covid-19.
6) Biden signed an executive order for making efforts to mitigate inequities caused or exacerbated by COVID-19
In yet another Covid-19-related executive order, President Biden has established a health equity task force. The goal is to address social inequities exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. The order, which created the task force, requires that the group provides recommendations pertaining to the allocation of resources in a way that will address “disparities in Covid-19 outcomes by race, ethnicity and other factors.” In the order, it is stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated severe and pervasive health and social inequities in America. For instance, people of color experience systemic and structural racism in many facets of our society and are more likely to become sick and die from COVID-19.”
While Biden’s critics support the effort to provide better care for affected groups, they disagree with his presidential assertion that “systemic racism” is the reason minority groups are more likely to become sick and pass. Instead, they cite genomics as the driving factor in the rate of sickness and death and believe Biden’s choice to suggest systemic racism is the culprit is irresponsible, scientifically inaccurate and socially divisive.
Genomics studies have confirmed that some minority ethnic groups are more prone to infection. Additionally, some groups may suffer more severe symptoms of the virus. One molecular epidemiologist at the University of Hawaii has joined forces with a genomics company known as LifeDNA in a study to determine why certain groups and/or individuals are more vulnerable. So far, according to the researchers, “There have been major differences in rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the severe disease between different geographic regions since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, even among young individuals.” According to their findings, certain populations carry different variants of the ACE2 gene. This variant may affect the number of receptors in the lung cells and may also affect how effectively the virus can bind to these receptors. The researchers also believe that genetic differences may impact immunity, explaining why some people become more ill than others.
By Biden’s own admission, there has been a lack of sufficient data surrounding Covid-19 as it pertains to ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Part of the task force’s duties will be to ensure continuity in data reporting as it pertains to vulnerable populations.
7) The president signed an executive order directing guidance to state and local governments on how to reopen schools in 100 days.
President Biden signed an executive order to help expedite the opening of schools across the United States. The Department of Education will work with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop guidance for school reopening. In addition, the departments will push forth a plan for schools to remain open, for in-person learning, safely.
Increases in mental health visits, suicides, reports of self-harm and drug abuse, as well as the economic fallout associated with leveraging at-home learning with employment prompted Trump to push for the reopening of schools in May of 2020. The Trump administration called for the development of a plan to safely reopen schools as many as six months ago but left the decision-making process to individual states and individual school districts. President Trump was met with pushback on the left, as well as through the media, as commentators expressed concerns about the safety of sending kids back to school during the pandemic.
However, as suicide rates have continued to climb, along with emergency room visits associated with mental health, etc. the United States has all but declared a mental health crisis. In response, President Biden chose to push for the reopening of schools through executive order.
Critics of the Biden administration claim that his push to reopen schools immediately upon taking office is evidentiary of partisan hypocrisy on the left. Critics believe the move to be both ironic and conveniently timed following months of pushback.
As it stands, President Biden’s order has come against the opposition. Despite the reports that in-school transmission of the virus is low, a number of teachers’ unions are pushing back against Biden’s order. Teachers’ unions, which have traditionally supported the Democrat party, have staged callouts and taken additional measures to pushback on the order. In fact, a Chicago teachers union decided to continue to work from home rather than to report to their respective school buildings on Monday morning. The choice was made in defiance of the city’s reopening plan and passed by a slim majority of union members.
8) Also on day two, President Biden signed an executive order to promote workplace safety in response to the pandemic.
The president’s order directed the Department of Labor to establish and issue new guidance for employers when it comes to the health and safety of staff members. Guidance pertaining to mask-wearing, social distancing, cleaning and other factors are expected.
Obviously, individual organizations will have authority in the implementation of this guidance, particularly those that are privately owned. Front-facing organizations like restaurants and movie theaters are expected to present more stringent guidelines for staff members due to their regular contact with the public.
9) President Biden signed an executive order to create a coronavirus testing board.
The goal of the newly appointed Covid-19 pandemic testing board will be the coordination of national efforts to promote diagnostic screening and surveillance testing for the virus. Reportedly, the group will also be responsible for the distribution of free Covid-19 tests to those who are without health insurance.
For now, there has been no audible push back on this order, with the exception of some questions surrounding the verbiage “surveillance,” as many Americans wonder what exactly is meant by “surveillence testing.”
The order also includes the establishment of a Public Health Workforce Program designed to expedite and expand the pool of qualified workers to respond to the pandemic. These roles include not only doctors and nurses, but also contract tracers, test administrators, etc.
10) Biden’s presidential directive to increase support for international pandemic response efforts.
President Biden also planned to sign a presidential directive to “restore America’s leadership, support the international pandemic response effort, promote resilience for future threats and advance global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda.” As of now, however, there has been no definitive explanation of what kind of support and leadership is implied, nor how much the endeavor will impact/cost the American taxpayer.
Though this order was on the agenda for the day, we cannot confirm the formal signing thereof, as we’ve been unable to gain access to a copy of the order so far. We will elaborate on the implications of the order as soon as more information becomes available.