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Congressional deadlock doesn't mean total paralysis. Here's how Biden can change US with executive action

November 29, 2020 in Blogs

By Paul Rosenberg

Ever since Joe Biden was declared president-elect, a new subgenre of stories has appeared about his forthcoming use of executive actions, in the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC, CNN, NPR, The Hill, Mother Jones, Vox, etc. Some of these stories are standard issue — executive action is part of any new administration making its mark on the world, and prominent issues tend to draw special attention. But this year, the stories are more complicated, given the combination of Donald Trump’s legacy, the sheer number of outstanding crises and the gridlocked, uncertain state of government.

Yet most, though not all, of these accounts tend to miss one crucial point: Biden has enormous power to shape a governing agenda, regardless of anything Congress might do — not just in one or two areas, but across the entirety of government. This point was first forcefully made 14 months ago, when the American Prospect rolled out what executive editor David Dayen dubbed “The Day One Agenda.” This power does not reside primarily in the showy executive orders that Trump is so fond of signing, but rather in the matter-of-fact texts of laws passed by Congress over the long course of American history — specific grants of authority that are just sitting there, waiting to be exercised.

Not only is there tremendous agenda-setting power at the president’s disposal, but a more recent Day One Agenda article, “Joe Biden’s Four-Year Plan,” underscored how such actions could help create a new governing coalition of engaged voters, much as Social Security and Medicare did in previous generations. Of all the articles published about executive action recently, Dylan Matthews’ “10 enormously consequential things Biden can do without the Senate” in Vox stands out for grasping the breadth of possibilities, and explicitly drawing on the Day One Agenda. But it retains a typical Vox “here’s some stuff” tone — it’s absorbed in policy details, and divorced from the practical political considerations that have motivated the Day One Agenda all along.

Dayen told me in a recent interview that the idea started with “understanding the function of a president.” He …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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