President Joe Biden has issued dozens of executive orders in his first two weeks in the White House, and while his conservative critics have expressed anger toward the frequency of the practice, an overwhelming majority of Americans are supportive of the actions Biden has taken since assuming office.
According to data compiled by FiveThirtyEight.com, Biden has broad support for his early moves as president. More than four-in-five Americans (83 percent) agree with him when it comes to his banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual identity or gender equality, for example. An executive order placing a governmentwide focus on racial equality also has wide support, with 77 percent of Americans backing it.
Biden also has backing when it comes to his approach on the coronavirus pandemic, with 75 percent of poll respondents saying they back his order requiring masks on federal property. Sixty-eight percent also support his executive action that extends the moratorium on student loan repayments, while 65 percent said they agree with his moves to restart the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which temporarily allows many young immigrants to continue living and work in the U.S. without the threat of deportation.
Biden also has majority support when it comes to rolling back some of President Donald Trump’s policies, including 53 percent who say they are happy with his order ending new wall construction on the U.S.-Mexico border.
While these programs and initiatives have the backing of most Americans, several progressive groups and leaders are calling on Biden to do even more, noting that some of his orders need more substance to them.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) sent a tweet directly addressing the president, complimenting Biden’s initial days of issuing executive orders and thanking him for his actions but also requesting support for her legislative efforts to address drinking water.
“Can you take a look at my and [Rep. Debbie Dingell’s (D-Michigan)] Water is a Human Right Act? Access to PPE is important, but access to water is critical,” Tlaib said on January 21, after Biden had issued a number of orders addressing COVID-19.
Jonathan McNicholes, chair of Students United, a group that represents students at Minnesota’s seven state universities, also recently addressed the need for more action from Biden regarding loan forgiveness.
“It’s really impacting my generation. You’re having a bunch of 20- to 30-year-olds coming into the economy with $50,000 worth of debt. They can’t focus on buying a house. They can’t focus on making moves across the country,” McNicholes said last month.
Melanie Campbell, head of the Black Women’s Roundtable, also called on Biden (and other lawmakers) to do more to address racism in the U.S.
“We plan to engage this administration and to engage Congress,” Campbell said last week. “Black people didn’t just help the Biden-Harris ticket win for our health. I’m not waiting on announcements, I’m engaging. Maybe we’ll give them a week or two to settle in, but we are not sitting around waiting.”
Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, an assistant professor of geography and African American and Africana studies at the University of Kentucky, who focuses on mass incarceration, also took aim at Biden’s recent executive order aimed at phasing out the incarceration of federal inmates in private prisons. In an op-ed for Truthout last month, Pelot-Hobbs criticized the order for its limited impact.
“Biden’s executive order impacts a small segment of the current carceral state. His order not only applies exclusively to the federal Bureau of Prisons — which makes up slightly more than 8 percent of the current U.S. penal population — but just 9 percent of the people incarcerated under the Bureau of Prisons are held in a private prison,” Pelot-Hobbs wrote. “Rather than addressing the whole of the Bureau of Prisons under his purview, Biden’s order covers only 11 prisons, which incarcerate a total of 14,000 people.”
Biden has signed more than 40 executive orders since he was inaugurated on January 20, more than any other modern president has issued in their first days in office. Press Secretary Jen Psaki last week said that the administration would make attempts at bipartisanship in the days ahead, working with both “Democrats and Republicans to get packages through to help bring relief to the American public” amid the coronavirus pandemic but also promised that the president would push ahead when necessary.
“We’re just eager to move things forward as quickly as we can,” Psaki added.
While Biden’s executive orders have shifted policy in a more positive direction compared to the previous administration, Jeff Cohen, co-founder and policy advisor for progressive organization RootsAction, told Newsweek that the new administration must take bolder action to prevent Republicans from retaking Congress in next year’s midterms.
“I’m seeing too much hesitation,” Cohen said to Newsweek. “If they don’t deliver amid these multiple crises, then Republicans will storm back into power in 2022.”