A look at Biden's first executive orders

Many are good, but some are not

President Biden’s first executive orders are generally what we expected, and in line with the new president’s stated priorities. I wholeheartedly agree with some of them, I completely disagree with others, and some of them are simply grandstanding.

Here’s a comprehensive look at the first day’s orders, along with my ratings of good, not good, neutral, or self-solving.

Preserving DACA: self-solving

DACA was already preserved by the courts. The Biden administration Executive Order simply entrenches those court decisions into its policies. DACA wasn’t going away or Trump would have made it go away. It’s definitely here to stay now.

There was no need for this EO, except to look good preening for the media.

Deferring deportation for Liberians: neutral

Liberia is a tiny, war-torn nation. If there are Liberians who were classified under Temporary Protected Status, who somehow found themselves subject to deportation because Trump decided he didn’t want them here, then by all means, let them stay. It’s simply not a problem one way or the other to me. I’m not trying to denigrate Liberia, but why this is a Day One priority for Biden puzzles me.

Pausing federal student loan payments: good

Last I checked, we are in a pandemic, and millions of people aren’t working, meaning they aren’t earning paychecks, and can’t pay loans. This is a no-brainer.

End border wall funding not allocated by Congress: good

President Trump failed to make the case to Congress for allocating funds to his border wall. Not once, not twice, but three times he failed. Then he grabbed cash from other projects in the DOD and threw them at the wall. I’m sorry, but regardless of my belief that we might need a wall on our southern border, it’s wrong to do it the way Trump did. Biden is making the right call (for the wrong reason). I still put this one in the “good” column.

Ethics pledge for executive appointments: good

This EO implements a very long and strict ethics pledge that every appointee in every executive agency will need to sign.

It includes a ban on accepting lobbyist gifts; a two-year ban on participating in matters in which the appointee lobbied before entering government service; a two-year ban on lobbying after leaving government service; a one-year ban on assisting others in making communications or appearances that are prohibited while in government service; and a requirement to make employment decisions based on qualifications, competence and experience.

I like it.

Modernizing regulatory review: neutral.

This seems to be one of those things that the government never gets around to actually doing, but always talks about doing.

I don’t like the wording, in particular, the bent toward “how the regulatory review process can promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.” How about the interests of future generations is to not tax them to death or spend all the money they will make before they earn it?

(They’ve laughed me out of the room.)

Gender identity discrimination: self-solving

Specifically calling out the 2020 Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County, the Biden administration will take the broadest possible interpretation of that decision, which narrowly applies to the facts of the case: an EEOC lawsuit against the Georgia county because Bostock was fired for participating in a gay softball league. Biden’s EO expands that “reasoning” to every agency under Title VII and instructs them to review all existing orders, policies and programs to make them “Bostock compliant.”

The Trump administration opposed anything other than the strict application of Bostock and would seek guidance from the courts when attempting to expand its umbrella. In reality, the Biden administration will end up in the same boat, since it’s almost certain other cases may make it before SCOTUS to clarify, extend, or confine Bostock. The main difference here is that the Biden administration will not oppose expansion, and the Trump administration would have. Either way, the Justices will eventually make a decision, and Trump appointed three conservatives.

Notably, Justice Gorsuch, an expert in labor law, sided with the 6-3 majority, and wrote the opinion. With a different set of facts, Gorsuch may decide differently. Chief Justice Roberts also joined the majority, as well as the late Justice Ginsburg. The Court Biden inherited may not be so friendly to the expansions we may see. “Bostock compliant” is, therefore, in my opinion, a self-solving problem.

Restoring science to tackle the climate crisis: not good

Biden is restoring a reel of red tape to every agency that sets policy dealing with energy, the environment, and land management. Agency heads will be required to submit budget estimates to fully roll back every single Trump-initiated change to Obama-era policies. The EO even states: “The heads of all agencies shall immediately review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (agency actions) promulgated, issued, or adopted between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021, that are or may be inconsistent with, or present obstacles to, the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.”

If, for instance, President George W. Bush made some change to environmental policy and Obama didn’t mess with it, Biden will leave it alone. Only Trump administration efforts are being dismantled, whether they had good or bad results. In my mind, Trump’s efforts on the environment were not bad. The economy drives “green,” not government. Under Trump green energy flourished, along with cheap natural gas and clean coal. Biden just wants to undo all that and go back to the blackmail and ransom system Obama’s EPA used to extract money from large corporations and funnel it to friendly eco-warrior groups.

Smell the unity here.

Including illegal immigrants in the census: not good

The title of this EO was translated into Orwellian newspeak. “Executive Order on Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census.” The Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t guarantee every person in the world representation in the American House of Representatives simply because they, for a time, squatted on American soil.

Biden cites “tradition” and slings horse manure: “Accordingly, the executive branch has always determined the population of each State, for purposes of congressional representation, without regard to whether its residents are in lawful immigration status.” No, only Democrats believe this.

Yes, Donald Trump totally screwed up when he overreached and instructed the Census Department to exclude illegal immigrants, by asking specific questions to determine immigration status in the census questionnaire. There are more subtle, and more accurate, ways to deal with the issue.

The American census is designed to count Americans for the purpose of representation of citizens in the lower house of Congress. If it wasn’t so, then why did the founders make the compromise to count slaves as 3/5ths of a person? The southern states wanted to count slaves as a whole person, and the northern states wanted them not to count at all. This is no different than today’s problem: Democrats want to invite foreigners to reside here without any documentation and contrary to existing law, then to count them as whole people for the purposes of representation of citizens.

Unfortunately, Biden’s EO is likely to survive legal challenges.

Revocation of certain Executive Orders concerning Federal Regulation: not good

Translation: Orange man bad. Undo everything. Biden is revoking Trump EOs 13771, 13777, 13875, 13891, 13892, and 13893. This is an almost unprecedented act of wholesale slaughter against a previous administration’s lawful and thoughtful changes to governing. Not everything Trump did was an unhinged assault on democracy, but Biden’s administration is treating it like it was.

I don’t have much else to add here, other than this is a positively awful precedent, which we will see used again and again in future administrations, both Republican and Democrat. I find it hard to assign all the blame to Trump here, as Mr. Pen and Phone Obama was wont to create all kinds of EOs which Trump had to address similarly. Now Biden is just doing to Trump what Trump did to Obama. And the next president of a different party with do it to Biden.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Sanctuary cities: self-solving

This.

Executive Order 13768 of January 25, 2017 (Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States), is hereby revoked.  The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, and the heads of any other relevant executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall review any agency actions developed pursuant to Executive Order 13768 and take action, including issuing revised guidance, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, that advances the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

The rescinded EO is where Trump directed that funding be denied to self-declared “Sanctuary cities.” The thing is, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District Court ruling that struck down the order.

Biden’s EO is unnecessary, and in reality moot, because of the multiple lawsuits decided in favor of the sanctuary cities that held the order in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and other applicable law.

It’s just pandering.

Creating a COVID-19 czar: good

This EO creates the position of Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator) in the Executive Office of the President. A real COVID-19 czar. Trump should have done this a year ago but never did.

I believe many lives would have been saved, and many economic disasters averted or blunted, if there was a COVID-19 czar back in April 2020. Kudos to Biden for doing it. Let’s hope it works.

Requiring masks for federal employees: good

Seriously, this should have been the policy from day one.

Sec. 3.  Encouraging Masking Across America.  (a)  The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), including through the Director of CDC, shall engage, as appropriate, with State, local, Tribal, and territorial officials, as well as business, union, academic, and other community leaders, regarding mask-wearing and other public health measures, with the goal of maximizing public compliance with, and addressing any obstacles to, mask-wearing and other public health best practices identified by CDC.

(b)  The COVID-19 Response Coordinator, in coordination with the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall promptly identify and inform agencies of options to incentivize, support, and encourage widespread mask-wearing consistent with CDC guidelines and applicable law.

I’m certain that Dr. Birx or any number of Trump’s coronavirus task force (including Vice President Pence) suggested this kind of thing. I’m sure that Trump shot them down, because “his people” want “liberty” to do risky things.

If the “Safer Federal Workforce Task Force” had existed under the Trump administration, perhaps we wouldn’t have seen the insanely stupid pronouncements that mass protests for BLM without social distancing were okay, but going to church wasn’t okay. Instead, Trump gave us a daily show, that was informative at first, then turned into a three ring circus, where all the rings were filled with clowns.

Ending discriminatory bans on entry to the U.S.: self-solving

Biden’s EO acknowledges that Trump’s “Muslim ban” was a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and not a logical extension of a ban begun by President Obama, with a few countries added because of legitimate threats.

“Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all,” the Biden EO reads. Come on.

The EO revokes another Trump order: 13780, and a couple of proclamations. In reality, it does nothing. It simply opens up the backlog and adjudication process for visas in the countries banned by Trump. The State Department is still going to do its darnedest to keep people from threat countries out. And—God forbid—there’s an attack on U.S. soil or citizens, the Trump ban will become the Biden ban in about 15 nanoseconds.

The Biden EO requires a review of use of social media posts in determining visa eligibility. News flash: extremists are easier to identify when you see their Facebook posts.

There’s no real meat here, just a self-solving problem that serves to distance Biden from Trump’s thumb-sucking and ill-thought-out remarks about certain countries.

Advancing racial equity: not good

Here is an open door to critical race theory proponents. It means anyone who doesn’t agree that you must be a white-bashing self-flagellating liberal or you’re automatically a racist, is indeed a racist.

Sec. 4.  Identifying Methods to Assess Equity.  (a)  The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) shall, in partnership with the heads of agencies, study methods for assessing whether agency policies and actions create or exacerbate barriers to full and equal participation by all eligible individuals.  The study should aim to identify the best methods, consistent with applicable law, to assist agencies in assessing equity with respect to race, ethnicity, religion, income, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability.  

(b)  As part of this study, the Director of OMB shall consider whether to recommend that agencies employ pilot programs to test model assessment tools and assist agencies in doing so.  

“Pilot programs” means the government spending tax dollars to fund all kinds of sensitivity training, rooting out unconscious racism, excluding white people from meetings (that’s segregation) because People of Color feel marginalized by their presence, and all the other junk that goes on in college campuses and woke America.

Additionally, the EO revokes Trump’s EO 13950, “Combating race and sex stereotyping.” From the Department of Labor website:

Executive Order 13950 prohibits contractors from using any workplace training “that inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating” and provides several examples of specific concepts that would be prohibited in such training programs. OFCCP also notes that race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating in a training program, or employment generally, may also violate the affirmative and nondiscrimination obligations of Executive Order 11246.

Hail the scapegoats.

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