Fact check: No, Biden did not say that signing lots of executive orders makes you a dictator Fact check: No, Biden did not say that signing lots of executive orders makes you a dictator

“Biden signed a record number of executive orders in his first week – but just three months ago, according to Biden himself, only one dictator would do it,” Fox News host Sean Hannity sa on air Tuesday.
“As recently as October, President Biden said you can not legislate through executive action unless you are a dictator. Well, in one week he has signed more than 30 unilateral actions, and working Americans are getting shorter,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sa Thursday in the Senate.
“According to his own definition, Biden already rules as a dictator,” read a heading on an opinion column in The Hill by commentator Joe Concha. Biden signs more executive orders despite claims he once said they were for dictators, “read a heading in the Conservative Washington Examiner. “Joe Biden acknowledges that he rules as a ‘dictator,'” he said heading posted on Instagram by Charlie Kirk, founder and president of the conservative student group Turning Point USA.

In an email, McConnell’s spokesman David Popp vehemently rejected CNN’s conclusion that McConnell had incorrectly characterized Biden’s “dictator” remark. Popp said that given the full text of what Biden said in October and other campaign comments Biden made about his belief in a consensus-seeking philosophy of governing, “do not check out your fact-checking.”

We respectfully disagree. Let’s go through the relevant history.

Biden’s comments

Biden claimed during the campaign that other politicians, including some of his rivals in the Democratic primary, suggested using executive orders in situations where orders could not be used properly. he told The New York Times editorial in December 2019 that it would be unconstitutional to sign an executive order to ban the possession of assault weapons or make significant changes in the judiciary.
At an ABC News town hall event in Philadelphia in October 2020, Biden was asked by host George Stephanopoulos whether it is wise to implement his proposals to raise taxes on business and the rich at a time when the economy is weak. After Biden defended his plan, Stephanopoulos said, “So there will be no delay in the tax increases.”

Biden replied, “No, yes, I have to get the votes. I have to get the votes. That’s why – you know, the only me – I have this strange view. We’re a democracy. Some of my Republican friends and some of my Democrats friends even sometimes say, ‘Well, if you can not get the votes, you will do something through executive orders.’ “Things you can not do through executive orders unless you are a dictator. We are a democracy. We need consensus.”

This was familiar Biden rhetoric. Like his previous comments to the Times, the “dictator’s” remark was a critique of proposals to use executive orders for initiatives that require congressional approval, not a claim to sign many executive orders is inherently tyrannical.

Popp claimed that Biden’s subsequent opinion on the need for “consensus” shows that he made a broad statement about his government philosophy, not just narrowly about executive orders for a change in tax policy. And Popp noted that Biden had repeatedly spoken, including in the Times interview, about the importance of bringing people together and working through Congress.

It is fair. But McConnell still went too far when he hinted that Biden signed a bunch of executive orders meaning he particularly opposed the “dictator’s” comment.

There are also other important contexts.

Bidens campaign promises

Several Biden executive orders simply repeal the policies that Trump had introduced through his own executive orders without public complaint from McConnell and other Biden critics. And critically, Biden promised during the campaign that he would sign significant executive orders. In fact, many of Biden’s executive orders from early presidencies are fulfilling explicit campaign promises.

For example, Biden signed a series of orders aimed at combating climate change – just like his campaign climate plan, which is still on his website, said he would: “On the first day, Biden will sign a series of new executive orders with unmatched reach that goes far beyond the platform of the Obama-Biden administration and puts us on the right track.”
Biden’s order Revoking Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military was another campaign promise. So was his order to preserve the immigration program DACA (Defera Action for Childhood Arrivals) Trump tried to eliminate, to operate a “Buy American” purchasing policy, to stay Trumps socket from the World Health Organization and repeal Trump’s Muslim-focused travel ban.
After a Washington correspondent took up the “dictator’s” comment on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted to reporters that Biden has also proposed major legislation on pandemic relief and immigration. She said Biden “will use the levers that every president in history has used: executive actions. But he also thinks it’s important to work with Congress – and not just one party but both parties – to get things done.”

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