Leaked audio indicates Biden won’t rubber-stamp agenda of his ‘progressive friends’
Presumptive President-elect Joe Biden held a two-hour virtual Zoom meeting with civil rights leaders on Tuesday. Leaked audio presented by The Intercept Deconstructed podcast showcases how Biden opposes using executive authority on a number of policy items that his “progressive friends” are pressuring him to act on. It was a closed press conference held on Thursday morning.
“So there’s some things that I’m going to be able to do by executive order,” Biden states on the recording. “I’m not going to hesitate to do it, but what I’m not going to do is… when you’d have some of the people you were supporting saying, ‘On Day One I’m gonna have an executive order to do this!’ Not within the constitutional authority.”
“I am not going to violate the Constitution,” he emphasized. “Executive authority that my progressive friends talk about is way beyond the bound, and as one of you said, maybe it was you, Reverend Al, whether it’s far left or far, right, there is a Constitution.”
Biden pledged to use executive authority to “undo every single damn thing [President Donald Trump] has done by executive authority, but I’m not going to exercise executive authority where it’s a question.”
He specifically made the point that enacting a sweeping “assault weapons” ban violated the Constitution.
“There’s no executive authority to do away that,” he told them. “No one has fought harder to get rid of assault weapons than me, me, but you can’t do it by executive order. We do that, next guy comes along and says, well, guess what? By executive order, I guess everybody can have machine guns again. So we’ve got to be careful.”
A number of progressive lawmakers, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have pressured Biden to use executive orders on a wide range of issues, including civil rights protections, student debt cancellation, raising the national minimum wage, and prioritizing the climate and clean energy.
Biden also warned the civil rights leaders that pressure on the incoming administration around police reform could hurt the party’s chances in the Georgia Senate runoffs, claiming that the Republicans ability to define their party as in favor of defunding the police is “how they beat the living hell out of us across the country.”
“That’s how they beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not. We’re talking about holding them accountable. We’re talking about giving them money to do the right things. We’re talking about putting more psychologists and psychiatrists on the telephones when the 911 calls through. We’re talking about spending money to enable them to do their jobs better, not with more force, with less force and more understanding.”
“I just raise it with you to think about how much do we push between now and January 5th — we need those two seats — about police reform. But I guarantee you, there will be a full-blown commission. I guarantee you it’s a major, major, major element,” Biden said.
Republicans currently hold a two-seat majority in the Senate. Unless both Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock defeat incumbent Georgia Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the upcoming January runoff elections, Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP are expected to try to block the Biden administration from implementing a radically liberal agenda.