President Joe Biden has signed dozens of executive orders during his first week in office, months after asserting that a president should legislate with a “consensus” or risk becoming a “dictator.”
His first week in office, Biden signed 32 executive orders, according to a tally by NBC News. That number is more than triple the number of orders the previous three U.S. presidents – George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump – signed in each of their first weeks in office, combined. According to the Federal Register, Bush signed no executive orders his first week in office, Obama signed five, and Trump signed four.
Biden once said that in the United States, a president needs a “consensus” to legislate on certain issues or “you’re a dictator.” Biden was discussing tax policy during an October town hall with ABC News host George Stephanopoulos. The then-Democratic nominee for president rejected the idea that he would use an executive order to increase taxes.
“I got to get the votes,” Biden said, responding to a Stephanopoulos question on tax increases. “That’s why, you know, I have this strange notion, we are a democracy. Some of my Republican friends and some of my Democratic friends even occasionally say, ‘Well, if you can’t get the votes, by executive order you’re going to do something.’ Things you can’t do by executive order unless you’re a dictator. We’re a democracy. We need consensus.”
Many of Biden’s executive orders have been targeted at rolling back Trump administration actions. The latest batch, signed on Tuesday, seeks to establish “racial equity” in areas such as prisons and housing while condemning a presumed increase in racism against Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden has also cracked down on the fossil fuel industry through executive action in his administration’s effort to combat climate change. On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order directing the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, a largely symbolic gesture and commitment to cut emissions. His order came along with executive actions rescinding a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, indefinitely suspending new oil and gas leases on federal land, and locking back up a massive oil reserve in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Biden administration’s climate agenda has already received stiff blowback from officials in the U.S. and Canada, as well as from union leaders whose members are losing their livelihoods. On Wednesday, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said that workers in the fossil fuel industry that lose their jobs should transition to fields in clean energy. Kerry blamed the loss of jobs on “market forces” instead of the administration’s policies.
“I think that, unfortunately, workers have been fed a false narrative. No surprise, right from the last few years. They’ve been fed the notion that somehow dealing with climate is coming at their expense. No it’s not. What is happening to them is because other market forces are already taking place,” Kerry said.
Along with the order to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, the president signed 16 others across a range of issues. He mandated that face masks must be worn on federal property for the first 100 days of his administration.
Biden also ordered all schools that receive federal funding to allow transgender students to participate on the sports teams of their chosen gender, meaning that biologically-male students may play on women’s sports teams.