US President Joe Biden issues executive orders to quickly dismantle Donald Trump’s legacy

Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida on January 20.

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President Joe Biden, a more senior Washington operator, is not using the process to build his legacy, as Mr. Trump tried to do, but as a means to erase Mr. Trump’s.

In his first 48 hours in office, Biden issued around 30 executive orders, 14 of which target a wide range of Trump’s executive mandates, the rest aimed at implementing emergency measures to deal with the pandemic. and the economic crisis.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that most of what Mr. Trump has done can be undone in an afternoon. It’s going to take at least 10 days, ”said John Podesta, a former adviser to President Barack Obama who lobbied for the targeted use of executive action during Mr. Obama’s second term when Republicans in Congress blocked his talks. proposals on the environment and immigration.

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“I think Trump somehow views Article II of the Constitution” – which details the powers of the presidency – “as making him omnipotent, and now he’s going to find out, except for tax cuts, and perhaps of certain elements of foreign policy, very little will really last, ”he added.

A former senior Trump official, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, agreed. “Very little of what Trump has done has been done to ensure permanence. At the rate Biden moves, everything Trump has done will be gone by the time the sun rises on Monday – except for his judicial appointments. “

Biden’s list of executive orders aimed at rolling back Trump’s initiatives include: restoring the country’s commitment to funding the World Health Organization; join the Paris climate agreements; the cancellation of Mr. Trump’s ban on immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries and the end of the application of immigration laws within the country; stopping the construction of the border wall; ensure the protection of LGBTQ workers undermined by those appointed by Trump; kill the Keystone XL pipeline license; reimpose the ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; impose new ethical rules and reject Mr. Trump’s “1776 Commission” report.

US President Joe Biden signs an executive order as Vice President Kamala Harris watches at the White House on January 22, 2021.

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The effort has its roots in a less focused campaign at the start of the Trump administration. Four years ago, during the transition, a Trump aide printed Mr. Obama’s detailed checklist of campaign pledges on the official White House website in a never-quite-for-all goal of overturning each of them.

Mr. Trump’s allies have said his management of the economy, even after the pandemic, is his greatest legacy, a view shared by his aides who put together a list of around 1,000 that was later deleted from the White House website.

“Before the Chinese virus invaded our coasts, we built the most prosperous economy in the world,” he begins. “America has created 7 million new jobs – more than three times the forecasts of government experts. The middle-class family income increased by almost $ 6,000 – more than five times the earnings during the entire previous administration.

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The list is light on legislative achievements. Mr. Trump, who hasn’t taken the time to learn the levers of power, hasn’t consistently engaged with congressional leaders beyond cheering for their support or making last-minute demands to increase funding for its wall by threatening to scuttle big budget deals.

As Mr. Trump ruled on Twitter, lessons important to him lurked, unsupervised, on YouTube.

In a remarkable interview 10 days before his death in 1973, Lyndon B. Johnson, the most talented lawmaker in recent history, explained why he had resisted the temptation to pass historic civil rights reforms. using decrees.

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Pursuing a legislative path was more difficult and led to an uncertain outcome, but he wanted his reforms to last, Mr Johnson explained, and to do so they needed the stubborn force of the law.

Black leaders “wanted me to make an executive order and proclaim it by presidential decree,” Mr Johnson said of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 – an approach which, he concluded, “would not be very effective if Congress did not legislate. “

If Mr. Trump needed a more contemporary lesson than Mr. Johnson’s, all he had to do was remember his predecessor, Mr. Obama, who went through a long and messy process to pass the Human Rights Act. affordable care – a law that has endured, albeit weakened, despite Mr. Trump’s repeated efforts to destroy it.

US President Joe Biden signs an executive order during a White House event on January 22, 2021.

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During the first two years of his administration, Mr. Trump enjoyed a majority in both houses of Congress, which allowed him to legislate on the issues he campaigned on: tightening immigration restrictions and building a border wall, repeal Obamacare and restore economic vitality to the heart of the ravaged Midwest.

But he never seriously attempted to build consensus on immigration reform and instead chose to act unilaterally on the issue, drafting a poorly executed ban on visitors from several Muslim and African countries in his early days. in office, much to the chagrin of seasoned advisers like his first White House lawyer Donald McGahn, former aides have said.

Instead, Mr. Trump became enthralled with the executive order-issuing pageantry, turning daily signing sessions into televised displays of his power.

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At the same time, Mr. Trump was wasting opportunities to create a lasting legislative legacy, unsuspectingly moving away from initiatives such as an ambitious infrastructure package that could have generated broad bipartisan consensus and shifted the trajectory of the government. his presidency.

Two bills have broken this mold – the tax cuts and the Criminal Justice Reform Bill of 2018, a measure that enjoyed strong support from both sides and has become a main theme of the Convention. Republican National Assembly as he sought to win the support of black voters.

Whether Mr Biden will also become too dependent on executive action remains an open question. But as a guideline, some members of Mr. Biden’s team are using a 140-page law review article from 2001 by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, then a professor at Harvard Law School, which charts a middle ground. , supporting the use of executive power. as a tool for regulatory efforts, but not as a license to unilaterally dictate every action taken by presidential subordinates.

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Two officials involved in deploying Mr Biden’s orders said his use of executive orders was not a reflection of a broadened view of executive power but rather a response to the pandemic and the damage caused by M’s policies. Trump.

They said his use of executive action would decrease when congressional action resumed.

Brian Deese, an economic adviser to Biden, said the administration’s top priority on Friday was to pass a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, but stopgaps included in orders, such as a Potential increase in the minimum wage for federal employees, and increased food aid, were needed to keep the country from falling into “a very serious economic hole.”

But Mr Biden seems to know that the way to carry out his agenda is through Congress, especially the Senate, where he served for nearly four decades.

Kevin E. Boling