President Joe Biden and aides are showing touches of prickliness amid growing scrutiny of his reliance on executive orders in his first days in office.
The president in just over a week has already signed more than three dozen executive orders and directives aimed at addressing the coronavirus pandemic as well as a gamut of other issues, including environmental regulations, immigration policies and racial justice.
Biden has also sought to use the orders to erase foundational policy initiatives by former president Donald Trump.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says Biden’s reliance on executive action in the early going conflicts with the Democrat’s pledge as a candidate to be a consensus builder. In a speech from the Senate floor on Tuesday, McConnell criticized Biden's orders by saying “you can’t legislate by executive action unless you are a dictator.”
The Biden administration has responded to criticism regarding the flurry of executive actions by pointing to their work in attempting to pass additional COVID-19 stimulus through Congress.
“Of course we are also pursuing our agenda through legislation. It’s why we are working so hard to get the American Rescue Plan passed, for starters,” White House press secretary Kate Beddingfield said in a series of tweets on Thursday.
As the NYT ed board criticizes President Biden this am for taking swift executive action to reverse the most egregious actions of the Trump Admin, I can’t help but recall that during the primary they encouraged voters to consider what a president could accomplish through exec 1/— Kate Bedingfield (@WHCommsDir) January 28, 2021
Of course we are also pursuing our agenda through legislation. It’s why we are working so hard to get the American Rescue Plan passed, for starters! 3\3— Kate Bedingfield (@WHCommsDir) January 28, 2021
According to the Associated Press, Biden himself said during a town hall in October that he legislation more highly than executive orders. During that event, when discussing raising taxes on the wealthy, Biden said that there are "things you can’t do by executive order unless you’re a dictator.”
Bill Clinton had 364 orders over two terms, George W. Bush signed 291 over his eight years in office and Barack Obama issued 276. President Donald Trump in his one term signed 220 orders.