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Psaki defends Biden's use of executive orders amid criticism

White House press secretary Jen Psaki brushed off criticism that President Biden’s reliance on executive actions in his first week — a process that can be used to circumvent Congress — is at odds with his campaign promise of unity.

Psaki argued that the more than 40 executive orders were part of Biden’s fulfillment of commitments he made during the inaugural address.

“I would say first that part of unifying the country is addressing the problems that the American people are facing and working to reach out to Democrats and Republicans to do exactly that,” said Psaki. “He’s had calls with Democratic and Republican members of Congress, many of them; he’s doing more calls today.”

President Joe Biden signs a series of executive orders on health care, in the Oval Office of the White House on Jan. 28, 2021, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Biden in the Oval Office on Thursday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Psaki continued: “He also ran with a commitment to take steps immediately to address the pain and suffering that the American people were feeling, and that includes overturning some of the detrimental, harmful and at times immoral policies and actions of the prior administration. But he’s the first to tell you ... he’s not going to take executive action alone; that’s why he’s put forward a number of packages that he’s actively working with members of both parties to move forward on.”


Republicans, many of whom lauded then-President Donald Trump for his dependence on executive orders and actions, publicly pilloried Biden, accusing him of sidestepping democratic processes in order to enact what Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called a “far left” agenda.

Psaki suggested several times during Thursday afternoon’s press briefing that the administration’s economic relief package was broadly supported by the American public and that the White House was willing to work with legislators of both political parties to push a bill through. However, a number of Republicans already believe the $1.9 trillion proposal is far too expensive, and the Biden administration may face an uphill battle if it tries to move the package through a closely divided Congress.

Psaki also shot down the idea that the administration was willing to split up the recovery package into separate bills as part of negotiations with Congress.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing on January 28, 2021, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki at a press briefing Thursday at the White House. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

“We’re not looking to split the package. That is not a proposal from the White House. I talked to the president about it this morning. That is not what our focus or our intention is,” Psaki said of Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill and negotiations.

Though she did not dismiss the notion that Democrats would push their program through budget reconciliation — a somewhat complicated parliamentary procedure that would allow Democrats to pass legislation with a simple majority vote instead of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Senate filibuster — Psaki maintained that there is “no blood oath” for Republicans to not vote on a reconciliation plan and that their caucus is open to some negotiation on the relief package.

“We’re not going to do this in a piecemeal way or break apart a big package that’s meant to address the crisis we’re facing,” said Psaki.


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