Klain pushes back on criticism over Biden's gush of executive actions

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White House chief of staff Ron Klain on Thursday defended the flurry of executive actions President Joe Biden has taken in his first week in office, pushing back against a New York Times editorial urging the administration to enact more policy through congressional legislation.

In a tweet Thursday morning, Klain wrote that the White House was “not taking executive action in lieu of legislation: we are taking executive action to fix what Trump broke in the executive branch, and to keep the President’s commitments to use his power — within appropriate limits — to make progress on four crises.”

Indeed, Biden has signed numerous executive orders since assuming the presidency last Wednesday aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic, the lagging U.S. economy, racial inequity and climate change.

Republican lawmakers have already pointed to the orders — particularly those undoing some of former President Donald Trump’s most controversial policies — as evidence of Biden’s alleged failure to unite the country in the opening days of his administration, as he had repeatedly pledged he would do.

Democrats, meanwhile, have dismissed those accusations as disingenuous, arguing instead that Biden is simply fulfilling the popular campaign trail promises that won him the 2020 election with the most votes cast for a presidential candidate in American history.

Criticism of Biden’s orders resurfaced on Thursday in an unexpected forum, the Times, when the paper’s editorial board published a column instructing the new president: “Ease Up on the Executive Actions, Joe.”

Although a “polarized, narrowly divided Congress may offer Mr. Biden little choice but to employ executive actions or see his entire agenda held hostage,” the editorial board wrote, “these directives … are a flawed substitute for legislation.”

Unlike Republicans’ complaints, however, the editorial board’s concerns regarding Biden’s orders mostly focused on their “more ephemeral” nature compared to legislation — noting that executive actions can be “easily discarded” by subsequent administrations.

The Times editorial comes as the president’s legislative agenda remains singularly preoccupied by the need for additional pandemic relief. White House economic officials are still in talks with a bipartisan working group of senators in an effort to pass Biden’s expansive stimulus proposal.

But resistance from even some moderate Republicans has increased the likelihood that Biden and Democratic lawmakers will forgo the negotiations in favor of Congress’ budget reconciliation process, which would allow the package to pass with a simple majority vote in the Senate.

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