Sen. Bernie Sanders has instructed his team of campaign advisers to draw up a list of executive actions he can take immediately upon entering the White House as he embarks on what would be a challenging effort to enact his ambitious agenda.
The slate of potential day one directives encompasses a range of campaign promises, from declaring a climate change a national emergency, to allowing the US to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and ordering his Justice Department to effectively legalize marijuana, according to a Washington Post report.
A Sanders aide with direct knowledge of the internal deliberations described the menu to CNN as a “working document” and said Sanders himself has been personally involved in the process. The goal, the aide said, would be to take action on a variety of issues that are within the purview of executive authority even before Sanders’ Cabinet officials are confirmed by the Senate.
Sanders has faced questions throughout the primary campaign, which kicks off in earnest on Monday with the Iowa caucuses, over how he would implement his broad agenda in the face of opposition from Republicans in the Senate and some dissenters within the Democratic Party. He has mostly remained circumspect on issues related to process and been hesitant to endorse any plan to blow up the filibuster in the Senate, instead suggesting he would attempt to use the budget reconciliation process to pass his trademark “Medicare for All” legislation.
Asked by the New York Times editorial board how he would contend with a Senate run by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sanders — as he often argues on the campaign trail — said he would seek to harness popular support to apply overwhelming outside pressure on GOP lawmakers.
“So to me, what my administration is about is not sitting with Mitch in the Oval Office or wherever it is, negotiating something,” Sanders said. “It is rallying the American people around an agenda that they already support. All right? This is, I think, what makes me a little bit different than other candidates, and that is not only will I be commander in chief, I will be organizer in chief.”
Sanders has frequently pointed to public polling that shows his policies are more popular with voters than they are, currently, on Capitol Hill.
“And I think the agenda that we have brought out in almost every respect is supported by the American people,” he told the Times editorial board. “So one of my first stops, by the way, will be in Kentucky, a state that is struggling very hard. One of the poorest. I love the people in Kentucky.”
Plans to reinstate DACA, the Obama-era program that grants legal status to undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them into the US as children, putting an immediate stop to the construction of President Donald Trump’s border wall and opening the country up a greater number of refugees are common among the Democratic primary candidates.
There is debate within the Democratic Party over how to pursue even the candidates’ shared agenda items. Former Vice President Joe Biden has staked his campaign on the promise he can most effectively win over Republicans on some issues, and has warned that overusing executive action could lead to an abuse of power. But Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been the most aggressive, pledging to eliminate the legislative filibuster as part of her strategy for delivering on her agenda from her first day in the White House.