Biden Should Use Executive Action on Pandemic, Clyburn Says

Democratic Representative Jim Clyburn said President Joe Biden should continue to use his executive authority where he can to provide pandemic aid while Congress works through broader legislation to deal with the economic effects of the coronavirus.

“I think he must continue to sign executive orders if the recalcitrance continues over in the Senate,” Clyburn, a member of House Democratic leadership, said Thursday in an interview on Bloomberg’s “Balance of Power” program.

Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief proposal has drawn skepticism from some Republican lawmakers, who question whether another package is needed so soon after the $900 billion relief bill passed last month. Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, is expected to meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the next few days to discuss the economic plan.

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, a member of Republican leadership, said some of the plan’s provisions could get broken off into separate bills to move more quickly if the broader proposal fails to get traction.

“There are some things that aren’t going to happen, there are some things that can happen, and that’s how this process should work,” Blunt said.

Even some moderate members of the GOP, such as Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have questioned whether another relief package now. Romney told reporters on Wednesday that he is not looking for a new package “in the immediate future.”

Both Romney and Murkowski were a part of the bipartisan group that worked on the $900 billion package and are expected to be among those who will meet with Deese.

Clyburn said he wants to see Congress act on the next piece of relief legislation in a bipartisan way, and he urged Republicans to consider the urgency of addressing the impact of the pandemic.

“This is a rescue plan, not a stimulus plan at all. We are trying to rescue people’s lives,” he said. “My Republican friends need to look at this in the totality of what they are, not just one end of it.”

The 80-year-old representative from South Carolina has been a member of the House since 1993 and as majority whip is the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat. He gave Biden a major boost last year when he endorsed him for the party’s presidential nomination.

Already, Biden has signed several executive orders to impose safety measures and provide relief to Americans in response of the pandemic. He extended a federal moratorium on evictions and ordered a freeze on federal student loan payments and interest to be extended through September 30. Biden also signed an executive order requiring that masks be worn on federal property.

On Thursday, he is expected to issue an order that will require masks be worn in airports, planes, intercity buses and other forms of transportation. He will also require people who arrive in the U.S. from another country to self-quarantine. But there are limits to how much he can do through executive action to provide direct economic relief.

Any action in the Senate could be complicated by the pending impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. Clyburn said the Senate should have sessions throughout the day to continue to work on Biden’s cabinet nominations and legislation at the same time.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House soon will send the article of impeachment to the Senate, triggering the start of a trial, but she hasn’t specified when. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and GOP leader Mitch McConnell still haven’t worked out how the 50-50 Senate will function.

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