Apr 11, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden dares the courts


Photo: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

President Biden has embraced the power of the pen, practically daring the courts to block new executive actions on gun control, student loan forgiveness and potentially the border.

Why it matters: Stymied by the least productive Congress in modern American history, Biden wants to hit the campaign trail with fresh policy wins tailored to the voting blocs he needs to defeat former President Trump.

Zoom in: Biden on Thursday approved the largest expansion of background checks in decades, issuing a new rule that would require thousands of gun sellers to register as federally licensed firearms dealers.

  • The attempt to close the "gun show loophole" will be implemented under the bipartisan gun safety law passed by Congress in 2022 — but the bill's Republican authors are now accusing Biden of a "power grab."
  • The regulation is certain to be challenged in Congress and in court.

Earlier this week, Biden announced a sweeping student loan forgiveness plan that would provide relief for more than 30 million borrowers.

The intrigue: His gun control and student debt rollouts are essentially peace offerings to progressives, but Biden's move toward shutting down the southern border risks massive blowback from the Democratic base.

  • The executive order Biden is considering would restrict the ability of immigrants to claim asylum and wouldn't require authorization from Congress.
  • "Some are suggesting that I should just go ahead and try it," Biden said in an interview with Univision. "And if I get shut down by the court, I get shut down by the court."

Between the lines: Conservative-stacked courts have become a potent political foil for Democrats, especially given Trump's role in reshaping the federal judiciary.

  • By overturning Roe v. Wade, for example, the Supreme Court unleashed a cascade of restrictive abortion laws that now have a starring role in the 2024 campaign.
  • That includes the Arizona Supreme Court's reinstatement of a near-total abortion ban, which Trump and Republicans have scrambled to disavow this week.

The bottom line: More than three years into his presidency, Biden is betting that he has little to lose — and plenty to gain — by daring the judiciary to thwart the final pieces of his agenda.

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