Is a president of the United States flagrantly defying the Constitution an authoritarian act? A threat to democracy? Something that at least should be discouraged or frowned upon?
Judging by the reaction of Democrats and center-left commentators to the lawless last-minute decision of President Joe Biden's CDC to extend an eviction moratorium sure to be struck down in the courts, the answer is emphatically "no."
At the same time we are constantly being told that, say, a Texas election bill to prohibit drive-through voting or Tucker Carlson's latest monologue on his influential Fox News program represents dire democratic backsliding, none of Biden's allies are raising a peep of protest against a measure that represents exactly the sort of high-handed unilateral rule practiced by authoritarians everywhere.
Indeed, Biden's handiwork is being celebrated as courageous and compassionate. What can he do as follow-up? Suspend habeas corpus? Quarter troops in people's homes?
Biden's eviction moratorium is of a piece with similar executive power grabs by his predecessors, particularly Barack Obama's DACA and Donald Trump's repurposing of military funding to the border wall. That doesn't make it any better, in fact, it makes it worse. It means that executive lawlessness is becoming an ingrained part of our system. In its own right, Biden's move is especially egregious.
Trump initially ordered an eviction moratorium in March 2020, which lapsed several months later. The CDC then ordered an eviction moratorium in September 2020, and it had extended it a couple of times under Biden, even while suffering setbacks in the courts.
There was never any warrant for the policy. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit wrote that the legal theory the government advanced would "grant the CDC director near–dictatorial power for the duration of the pandemic, with authority to shut down entire industries as freely as she could ban evictions."
In its own consideration of whether to block the moratorium, the Supreme Court made its thinking clear. There were four votes—Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett—for blocking the moratorium by vacating a stay on a lower court order against it. Brett Kavanaugh pulled up short of this. He found that the CDC "exceeded its existing statutory authority by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium," although he voted against ending the stay, on grounds that the moratorium was expiring in a few weeks anyway. Still, he stipulated, "clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31."...
Raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and New Castle County, Delaware, Biden studied at the University of Delaware before earning his law degree from Syracuse University in 1968. He was elected a New Castle County Councillor in 1970, and became the sixth-youngest senator in American history when he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware in 1972. Biden was a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and eventually its chairman. He opposed the Gulf War in 1991, but supported expanding the NATO alliance into Eastern Europe and its intervention in the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. He supported the resolution authorizing the Iraq War in 2002 but opposed the surge of U.S. troops in 2007. He also chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995, dealing with drug policy, crime prevention, and civil liberties issues; he led the effort to pass the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and the Violence Against Women Act, and oversaw six U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings, including the contentious hearings for Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and again in 2008.
Biden was reelected to the Senate six times, and was the fourth-most senior senator when he resigned to serve as Barack Obama's vice president after they won the 2008 presidential election; Obama and Biden were reelected in 2012. As vice president, Biden oversaw infrastructure spending in 2009 to counteract the Great Recession. His negotiations with congressional Republicans helped pass legislation including the 2010 Tax Relief Act, which resolved a taxation deadlock; the Budget Control Act of 2011, which resolved a debt ceiling crisis; and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which addressed the impending 'fiscal cliff'. He also led efforts to pass the United States–Russia New START treaty, supported military intervention in Libya, and helped formulate U.S. policy toward Iraq through the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting he led the Gun Violence Task Force.
Biden did not seek the presidency in the 2016 election. In January 2017, Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction. In April 2019, he announced his candidacy in the 2020 presidential election, and in June 2020 he reached the delegate threshold needed to secure the Democratic nomination. On August 11, he announced he had selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate.
Biden campaigned for U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones in October 2017. In 2017, Biden became the Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he intended to focus on foreign policy, diplomacy, and national security while leading the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. He also wanted to pursue his 'cancer moonshot' agenda, calling the fight against cancer 'the only bipartisan thing left in America' in March 2017.
Biden was close friends with Senator John McCain for over 30 years. When McCain died in 2018, Biden's eulogy began: 'My name's Joe Biden. I'm a Democrat. And I loved John McCain.' He also called McCain a brother.
Comments on Donald Trump While attending the launch of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement on March 30, 2017, a student asked Biden what 'piece of advice' he would give Trump. Biden responded that Trump should grow up and cease his tweeting so he could focus on the office. During a speech at a May 29 gathering of Phil Murphy supporters at a community center gymnasium, Biden said, 'There are a lot of people out there who are frightened. Trump played on their fears. What we haven't done, in my view—and this is a criticism of all us—we haven't spoken enough to the fears and aspirations of the people we come from.' On June 17, 2017, Biden predicted the 'state the nation is today will not be sustained by the American people' while speaking at a Florida Democratic Party fundraiser in Hollywood. Biden told CBS This Morning that Trump's administration 'seems to feel the need to coddle autocrats and dictators' like Saudi Arabian leaders, Russian president Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. In October 2018, Biden said if Democrats retook the House of Representatives, 'I hope they don't . I don't think there's a basis for doing that right now.' On June 11, 2019, Biden criticized Trump's 'damaging' trade war with China. He also criticized Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, which critics say gave Turkey the green light to launch the military offensive against Syrian Kurds.
Climate change During an appearance at the Brainstorm Health Conference in San Diego, California, on May 2, 2017, Biden said the public 'has moved ahead of the administration '. On May 31, Biden tweeted that climate change was an 'existential threat to our future' and remaining in the Paris Agreement was the 'best way to protect our children and global leadership'. The next day, after Trump announced U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, Biden tweeted that the choice 'imperils U.S. security and our ability to own the clean energy future'. While appearing at the Concordia Europe Summit in Athens, Greece, on June 7, Biden said, referring to the withdrawal, 'The vast majority of the American people do not agree with the decision the president made.'
During the October 22 presidential debate, Biden claimed that he 'never said I oppose fracking'. In fact, he said in 2019 that 'we would make sure eliminated' and in 2020 that he opposes 'new fracking'; his written policy plan says he endorses 'banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters'?—?but not ending all new fracking everywhere or ending current fracking on public lands and waters. He opposes federal subsidies for fossil fuels.
On March 22, 2017, during his first appearance on Capitol Hill since Trump's inauguration, Biden called the Republican healthcare bill a 'tax bill' meant to transfer nearly $1 trillion used for health benefits for those struggling to wealthy Americans. On May 4, after the House of Representatives narrowly voted for the American Health Care Act, Biden tweeted that it was a 'Day of shame for Congress', lamenting the loss of preexisting condition protections. On June 24, in response to Senate Republicans' revealing an American Health Care Act draft the previous day, Biden tweeted that the bill 'isn't about health care at all—it's a wealth transfer: slashes care to fund tax cuts for the wealthy & corporations.' On July 28, in response to the failure in the Senate of a bill to repeal parts of Obamacare, Biden tweeted, 'Thank you to everyone who tirelessly worked to protect the healthcare of millions.