WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — On restoring abortion facilitiesPresident Joe Biden says his hands are tied without more Democratic senators. public health emergency declaration There are drawbacks to this case, his colleagues say. And as far as gun violence is concerned, Biden has been clear about what he can do on his own.
“There is a constitution,” Biden told the South Lawn in late May. “I can’t dictate this stuff.”
Throughout this century, presidents have often pushed aggressively to expand the limits of executive power. Biden talks more about his limitations.
When it comes to the toughest issues facing his administration, the instinct of Biden and his White House is often to speak out about what he cannot do, the constraints imposed by the courts or controlled by his own party. Citing insufficient support in Congress – though barely.
He injects a heavy dose of reality into speaking to an increasingly troubled democratic base, which has called for action on issues such as abortion and voting rights before the November election.
White House officials and aides to the president say the approach is emblematic of a leader who has promised to always be honest with Americans, including how expansive his powers really are.
But Biden’s real political instincts are clashing with an activist base agitating for a more aggressive party leader – both in tone and in essence. Although candidate Biden sold himself as the man who knew Washington’s ways best, he is still plagued by the same obstacles that have discredited his predecessors.
“I think if you hesitate to do important tasks like this because of a legal challenge, you won’t do anything,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Cal., who is pushing for more administrative actions. on abortion. “People all over the country are expecting us – the leaders – to do something.”
Biden’s cautious approach may be to protect himself if the White House falls short – as Democrats negotiate a party-line spending package focused on social safety nets and climate provisions. That broad effort was continually thwarted by resistance from two moderate Democrats, one of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.who participated briefly on Thursday as a scaled-back effort focusing on climate and taxes.
That development prompted calls from Democratic senators for Biden to unilaterally declare a climate emergency. In a statement on Friday, while in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Biden pledged To take “strong executive action to meet this moment” on climate. But in recent weeks, the distinction between “yes, we can” and “no, we can’t” has been most pronounced on abortion.
since the Supreme Court Wade rule from 1973 with constitutional protections for abortion last month, the White House has come under considerable pressure to try to maintain access to abortion. in conservative states that are ready to outlaw the procedure,
For example, advocates have urged Biden to set up abortion clinics on federal land. He has asked the administration to help transport women seeking abortions to the state offering the procedure. And Democratic lawmakers are pressing the White House to declare a public health emergency.
Without dismissing the views outright, White House aides have expressed skepticism about such requests. And even when he signed an executive order last week to begin addressing the issue, Biden had a clear, consistent message: that he can’t do it on his own, Pennsylvania. We’re concentrating on the other end of the avenue.
“The only way we can secure a woman’s right to choose and the balance that existed is for Congress to restore Roe v. Wade’s protections as federal law,” Biden told Roe by court. Said immediately after killing., “No executive action on the part of the President can do that.”
Shortly after announcing that the filibuster — a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to advance most laws — should not apply for abortion. and privacy measures, Biden acknowledged during meeting with Democratic governors That his new position would make no difference, at least not now.
“The filibuster shouldn’t stand in the way of us being able to do that,” Biden said of writing Rowe’s protection into federal law. “But right now, we don’t have votes in the Senate to replace the filibuster.”
Biden, who served 36 years in the Senate, is an institutionalist by his core and has tried to operate under the constraints of those institutions — unlike his predecessor, Donald Trump, who repeatedly pushed the limits of executive power.
But some lawyers don’t want to hear from Biden about what he can’t do.
Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and executive director of the group We Testify, which advocates for women seeking abortions, said the administration should move forward with a public health emergency, even if it is ultimately blocked by the courts.
“It tells people who need abortions that the president is trying to help them, and what’s stopping them is the courts, not themselves, or their own take on what could possibly happen.” Presumption,” she later added: “The fact that he is an institutionalist and cannot look around and see that the institutions around him are crumbling is the problem.”
Democratic lawmakers have also continued to instigate senior administration officials behind the scenes. In a virtual meeting last week, Chu urged Health and Human Services Secretary Javier Becerra that the administration impose a public health emergency. Proponents of the idea say it would unlock some of the power and resources not only to expand access to abortion but to protect the doctors who provide them.
Although Becerra did not rule out the idea, he told Chu and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus that the administration had two main questions: how would the administration fund the public health emergency fund and what would the move actually achieve. ?
Skepticism hasn’t deterred Democratic lawmakers. But some of the most ardent supporters of broader executive action on abortion have likewise cautioned their voters and activists to be realistic.
“It is unrealistic to think that because of what the Supreme Court has done, they have the power and authority to protect access to abortion services in every part of this country,” said Sen. Tina Smith, D-Min.
In a sense, the recent success on the gun s was a validation of Biden’s art-possible approach, advocates say. Instead of promising what he could not achieve, Biden spoke of his limitations and cautioned that any significant change would require the support of at least 10 Senate Republicans — a goal that initially seemed impossible.
It culminated with a signing ceremony last week The first significant gun ban in law in nearly three decades.
“I think the president struck the absolute right balance,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Concerns about the limits of Biden’s executive powers are not merely hypothetical. For example, his administration’s efforts to tame the coronavirus pandemic were repeatedly thwarted by courts, including requiring the wearing of masks on mass transit and vaccination mandates for companies with at least 100 workers.
Then-President Barack Obama made a similar warning when immigration activists urged him to use his power to issue deportation relief to millions of young immigrants who did not have legal status in the US.
Obama unilaterally implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012, which continues to this day. Two years later, Obama fully embraced the pen-and-phone strategy, signaling to Congress that he would not hesitate to use executive orders if lawmakers continued their domestic agenda.
“Nobody thinks he has a magic wand here. People understand that there are limits,” said Leah Greenberg, co-founder and co-executive director of The Inseparable Project. “What they want to see is, Treating the crisis that is for people who have lost access to abortion in red states.”