Combating climate change through executive orders is a losing game
By Nancy Jacobson
For USA Today
June 4, 2019
Joe Biden was badgered by the far left for claiming he planned to find a middle-ground strategy on climate change. That’s not what the activist community wanted to hear. They don’t have any intention of compromising with people for whom climate change isn’t the only issue — no matter whether those people are Republicans or fellow Democrats.
So Biden released details Tuesday of a plan that is much more aggressive even than the one President Barack Obama pursued. If elected, he promised to use executive orders to curtail carbon emissions “on Day One,” according to his campaign.
The question is: Are more aggressive approaches on climate more prudent or more effective? The answer on both counts is clearly no. Democrats are incensed each time President Donald Trump issues a substantive executive order. They rage that he’s usurping the legislative branch’s role in setting policy, much as Republicans argued the same when Obama issued environmental regulations by fiat. In actuality, both parties are right: Major policy initiatives should emerge out of Congress and be signed by the president.
Which leads us to the question of effectiveness. If the nation shifts between Democratic and Republican presidents, each successive administration can simply rescind the policy of the previous one. That’s what Trump did to Obama’s climate-oriented fiats. And that’s what a subsequent Republican president would do to Biden’s climate-oriented executive orders. This is no way to govern. Not only do these executive orders cut against our constitutional system and enrage the other party — they rarely withstand the test of time.
The alternative is obvious. Rather that promise unilateral action in the face of an emergency, presidential candidates should promise to work with Congress to pass new laws. That’s an important part of Biden’s climate proposal — and it is welcome. As a senator, Biden was known for working well across the aisle. But eschewing executive for legislative action demands something else: a Congress that works. And that’s the biggest emergency of all. If America is going to respond to any of the major changes we face, we need to get Republicans and Democrats working together on Capitol Hill, obviating the need for presidents to take imprudent, ineffective, effective action.
The good news is that a growing movement is emerging in Congress to do just that. The Problem Solvers Caucus changed the House rulesto open the door for more bipartisan legislation. They have allies in the Senate. That’s the way forward. On climate and on every issue beyond.