President Biden said the word “unity” eight times in his inaugural address, but he’s already having a tough time unifying his own party and keeping his longtime allies in friendly unions happy.
In his first 10 days in office, Mr. Biden had signed 42 executive orders and memoranda covering everything from climate change to transgender rights to efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19.
But not everyone is happy with his unilateral actions, least of all the unions, which each year give hundreds of millions of dollars to Democrats.
With a single stroke of his pen in Week 1, Mr. Biden killed an extension of the Keystone XL pipeline, which carries Canadian crude oil into the U.S. Upwards of $3 billion of an overall cost of $8 billion has already been spent — that now appears lost. Poof: 11,000 jobs gone. More than that, the pipeline was expected to eventually transport 830,000 barrels of oil into the U.S., which would keep prices at the pumps low, so every American will soon feel the pain.
But Mr. Biden said climate change is more important than affordable gasoline — or jobs.
“The Keystone XL pipeline disserves the U.S. national interest,” Mr. Biden’s executive order said. “The United States and the world face a climate crisis. That crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.”
The United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) was particularly displeased.
“In revoking this permit, the Biden Administration has chosen to listen to the voices of fringe activists instead of union members and the American consumer on Day 1,” UA President Mark McManus said. “When built with union labor by the men and women of the United Association, pipelines like Keystone XL remain the safest and most efficient modes of energy transportation in the world.
“Sadly, the Biden Administration has now put thousands of union workers out of work,” the UA statement continued. “For the average American family, it means energy costs will go up and communities will no longer see the local investments that come with pipeline construction.”
LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, was equally miffed.
“The Biden Administration’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit on day one of his presidency is both insulting and disappointing to the thousands of hard-working LIUNA members who will lose good-paying, middle-class family-supporting jobs,” the union said in a statement. “By blocking this 100 percent union project, and pandering to environmental extremists, a thousand union jobs will immediately vanish and 10,000 additional jobs will be foregone.
“[F]or union members affected by this decision, there are no renewable energy jobs that come even close to replacing the wages and benefits the Keystone XL project would have provided. Killing good union jobs on day one with nothing to replace them, is not building back better.”
But it wasn’t just the pipeline. Interim Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega also issued an order freezing all new oil and gas drilling permits on federal land for 60 days. The order prompted backlash from officials in New Mexico and other western states.
“During his inauguration, President Biden spoke about bringing our nation together,” Carlsbad, N.M. Mayor Dale Janway told the Associated Press. “Eliminating drilling on public lands will cost thousands of New Mexicans their jobs and destroy what’s left of our state’s economy. How does that bring us together? Environmental efforts should be fair and well-researched, not knee-jerk mandates that just hurt an already impoverished state.”
Meanwhile, Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas drillers in Western states, said the freeze on drilling on federal lands could be devastating, with states like Utah, Wyoming and North Dakota taking the hardest hits.
“The environmental left is leading the agenda at the White House when it comes to energy and environment issues,” she told Bloomberg News. “Clearly Biden has made a political calculation. It says we are willing to sacrifice livelihoods in western states to placate the environmental left.”
Even the liberal New York Times was annoyed.
In a piece last week headlined “Ease Up on the Executive Actions, Joe,” the paper’s editorial board said the raft of executive orders “is no way to make law.”
“Such actions are more limited in what they can achieve than legislation, and presidents who overreach invite intervention by the court,” the board wrote. “These directives, however, are a flawed substitute for legislation.”
With the Senate split 50-50, Mr. Biden can’t lose a single vote if he hopes to pass legislation. But it looks like he’s not even going to bother with that route, instead he is more than happy to do end runs around Congress.
That, for the record, Mr. President, is the opposite of unity.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.