Former Vice President Joe Biden thinks a Democrat president could accomplish most of their agenda using the power of executive orders.
The 2020 Democratic hopeful spoke about that authority as well as his thoughts on his rivals, many of whom he feels have gone too far left, in a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.
Biden spoke while on the campaign trail in South Carolina, going for a walk with Lemon after a sit-down interview airing on “CNN Tonight” and weighed in on the state of his party.
“Do you think the party’s turned too far left …?” Lemon asked.
“I don’t the party has. I think some of the candidates — ” Biden began to respond.
“This is what Barack Obama, your former boss, said, that the system doesn’t need to be torn down,” Lemon continued. “People want it built up.”
“They want it built up,” Biden agreed.
“Look, all this stuff about we’re going to tear — ” he said as he was interrupted by a drive-by supporter.
“The fact that we talk about this — the part I love [is] when candidates say, ‘And by the way, by executive order I’m going to do this,'” he said. “We have the power to do 90 percent of this stuff by executive order.”
“Right,” Lemon responded without any clarification or pushback.
“So the way they talk is going to fundamentally change how we run the government … the Constitution, no matter how you cut it, requires there to be some consensus,” he added.
“So you think some of the candidates have gone too far left, not the party?” Lemon asked.
“No, well we’re going to find out pretty soon,” Biden responded, reiterating that Americans would see a “fundamental change” if he is elected but there would not be a need to “tear everything down” as some of the more radical plans from his opponents have proposed.
But earlier this summer, Biden criticized the other 2020 hopefuls and their plans to push their agendas through by executive order.
“You can’t do a lot by executive order. You can do some things, but you can’t, you need to generate a consensus,” Biden said at a stop in Massachusetts in August.
California Sen. Kamala Harris vowed earlier this year that she would sign executive orders on gun control if she won the Democratic nomination and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar promised to close the “boyfriend loophole” in gun purchases through executive action on her first day in office. And Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders promised he would sign an executive order to end the prohibition of marijuana.
President Trump has signed over 40 executive orders in 2019, ranging from immigration issues to Medicare to healthcare. By October, Trump had passed former President Obama’s third-year total of 108 executive orders with 130 of his own, finding that the administrative action is easier than getting a split Congress to go along.
Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt currently holds the record for the most issued executive orders with a total of 3,721 — a far cry from Founding Father and first President George Washington who issued only a total of eight executive orders in his two terms in office.
“Most candidates don’t realize the utility of executive actions while campaigning,” Andrew Rudalevige, a professor at Bowdoin College, told Associated Press News. “When they become president, they quickly gain an appreciation of how difficult it is to get things done in government.”
President Dwight Eisenhower issued an executive order in 1957 to desegregate public schools, while President Harry Truman ordered the equal treatment of all members of the armed forces through an executive order in 1948. An order by Roosevelt — a Democrat — in 1933 established World War II internment camps confining Japanese and German Americans.
But Obama famously clashed with Congress when he faced opposition trying to get legislation through that would further his agenda.
“We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need,” he declared in 2014. “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.”
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