During the coronavirus pandemic, the American people have experienced firsthand the largest expansion of government power in our nation’s living memory. At the behest of the government, the economy was shut down, schools were closed, and reforms to basic social behavior became compulsory for the enjoyment of everyday life. What less than two years ago would have been considered draconian has, in a terrifyingly short span of time, come to be accepted as the “new normal.”
The full force of these changes would not be appreciated until the inauguration of President Joe Biden, who largely campaigned on the ongoing pandemic. Broadly exercising his executive power as he sees fit, Biden has effectively rendered his enumerated powers a list of mild suggestions. It is important for us to examine the specific ways in which he has expanded the role of the federal government, as well as the authority that the executive branch wields over it.
President Biden has been able to impose major, controversial reforms absent any input from Congress. His key strategy for doing so has been to outsource the legislature’s duties to institutions lower on the food chain of the executive branch. Through the CDC, he perpetuated an uncompromising eviction moratorium. He tasked the Office of Civil Rights with protecting universal mask mandates in schools. And, most recently, he directed the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) to implement a controversial vaccine mandate for businesses with over a hundred employees.
Throughout this process, President Biden often took obscure, rarely utilized statutes regarding each institution’s capabilities and stretched them to and beyond their limits. He transformed each organization into practically omnipotent bodies so long as their actions could be loosely tied to their traditional purposes.
Prime examples of this include the Biden administration’s reliance on a 77-year-old passage in section 361 of the Public Health Services Act, which states the CDC is allowed to use their judgment to “prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries.” This passage, which was originally written for such purposes as fumigation and pest extermination, has been cited by Biden in support of the nationwide eviction moratorium. If it were up to just Joe Biden, the CDC would have almost limitless authority over societal norms. Through this strategy, Biden effectively turned an army of faceless, unelected bureaucrats into the new legislative arm of the White House.
The Supreme Court would accept none of this legal reasoning. In an eight-page opinion, the justices decried this interpretation as unlawful, stating that “It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the C.D.C. the sweeping authority that it asserts.” They further stated that “Congress must specifically authorize it” for the moratorium to continue.
Perhaps more startling than Biden’s love for stretching the law is his proud willingness to ignore it entirely when he is unable to do so. In response to pushback from the Supreme Court regarding his unlawful eviction moratorium, the President admitted: “the bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster.” He continued, “by the time it is litigated, we’ll probably give some additional time while we’re getting that $45 billion out to people who are, in fact, behind in the rent and don’t have the money.” In short, he was fully aware that his weaponization of the CDC was illegal, and he was likewise aware that if and when it went to court, it would be struck down. But he openly boasted that he would continue to violate the law until somebody stopped him.
Aside from vastly expanding the role of the executive branch, President Biden also seems to have made it his personal mission to usurp local control from the states. Pockets of resistance have sprung up predominantly in red states against Biden’s fierce Covid restrictions, with numerous states entirely banning universal mask mandates within their school districts.
On this, Biden remarked, “If they’ll not help, if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my powers as president to get them out of the way.” At his direction, the US Department of Education has taken broad legal action against dissenting states, with ongoing investigations against five of them for mask mandate bans alone. Biden has likewise dangled grants like a carrot on a stick to incentivize school districts to flagrantly ignore state orders and implement mandates anyways.
It would be, at best, radically optimistic to believe that this grocery list of power grabs–far too long to truly encapsulate within a single article–ends with the pandemic. By dramatically expanding the power of all manner of bureaucracies, fighting open battles against the highest court in the land, and attempting to bully his state and local counterparts into submission, Joe Biden has opened Pandora’s Box and granted the Oval Office a new sense of unchecked power that will far outlive his administration.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.