The theme of President Joe Biden's inauguration speech was a simple one: unity. In fact, the theme throughout his presidential campaign was his promise to try and unify the country. However, as we all know, actions speak louder than words. Unfortunately, the newly elected president has fallen extremely short on this promise.
Hours after he made his speech and was sworn into office, Biden signed 17 executive orders and actions, many of which are controversial, dividing issues. For instance, one of the signed orders was to reinstate America into the Paris Climate Agreement, something many Republicans are adamantly against. Another one ended the construction of the Keystone pipeline, immediately killing 1,000 jobs. To date, Biden has signed over 40 executive orders and actions. Will someone please tell me how this is unifying at all?
Before really getting into things, let’s talk about what executive orders are.
Executive orders are a direct order from the president and are essentially federal law. As we can all see, President Biden has proven to be quite the fan of them. The key thing to understand about executive orders is that they do not require any sort of congressional approval. All it takes is the president’s signature — it almost seems too good to be true and unfortunately, it is.
The simple fact of the matter is that going over the heads of Republicans (and the entire legislative branch might I add) on controversial issues is not going to unify our country. The legislative branch is there for a reason. It’s supposed to represent the people of our country, and Biden signing his name on executive order after executive order instead of pushing actual legislation is not the right move. If Biden really wants to reflect the will of millions of Americans who feel like their voices are not being heard, he would meet with members on the other side of the aisle instead of pulling unilateral stunts.
Time and time again, Biden said when he was elected president, he would not just be the president for Democrats, but for all Americans. Unless I’m missing something here, I don't understand how not even bringing Republican legislators to the table to discuss these contentious issues before signing executive orders is Biden being a president for all Americans.
To be fair, Biden did recently invite a handful of senators to the White House to discuss the coming COVID-19 relief bill. Biden wants a $1.9 trillion package, while Republicans prefer a $618 billion package. At a White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked whether Biden’s number was still $1.9 trillion after meeting with the GOP Senators. Her response: “It is.”
This leads me to believe Biden never had any real intention of finding a middle ground with these Republican senators, considering his own press secretary said he was not willing to move his position on COVID-19 relief funding at all. Instead, I believe Biden met with Republican senators for the same reason a lot of politicians do things — a good photo op.
Each president has taken a different approach to executive actions and orders throughout history. George Washington only signed eight during his eight years in office, while Franklin D. Roosevelt signed 3,721 (five resulting in Supreme Court overrulings.) I do not believe Biden will come close to FDR’s mark, but nonetheless, the executive orders must slow down.
Biden inherited a country that hasn't been this divided in decades. In the past year alone, our Capitol has been stormed, hundreds of thousands have died and unarmed Black men and women have died at the hands of those who were sworn to protect us.
Our country is broken.
If Biden really wants to heal this nation, it’s time he puts his executive-order-signing pen down and reaches his hand out to the other side of the aisle.
Sam Somogye is a political science senior and columnist for The Battalion.