Is freshman Rep. Tracey Mann obscuring the purpose of his transparency bills by naming them after himself?
President Joe Biden signed 22 executive orders in his first week, more than his seven predecessors signed in all of their first weeks combined. (The exact numbers: four for Donald Trump, five for Barack Obama, zero for George W. Bush, two for Bill Clinton, one for George H.W. Bush, zero for Ronald Reagan, and one for Jimmy Carter.)
Biden’s unprecedented reliance on executive orders has provoked consternation not only from his opponents, but even from his ostensibly supporters. The New York Times editorial board, which endorsed Biden in October, wrote their first negative piece about him published during his presidency on his eighth day in office, with an editorial titled “Ease Up on the Executive Actions, Joe.”
Biden’s initial burst of executive orders was exactly that: a consolidated push upfront to undo many of his predecessor’s executive orders issued over the course of four whole years, which won’t be adopted as Biden’s long term approach. For example, Biden’s executive order cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline permit undid Trump’s executive order granting the permit from March 2019, while Biden’s executive executive order disbanding the 1776 Commission undid Trump’s executive order creating the commission from November 2020.
What the legislation does
Six pieces of legislation collectively called the MANN (More Accountability is Necessary Now) Acts would mandate more transparency on presidents’ executive orders in six policy areas: the Second Amendment / guns, immigration, abortion, energy, natural resources / environment, and agriculture.
The bills wouldn’t prevent any such executive order on those subjects, but they delay them by requiring any president to provide 30-days notice before issuing an executive order dealing with any of those six policy areas. They would also require an annual administration report analyzing any such executive order’s impact, starting six months after signing — so six months later, 1.5 years later, 2.5 years later, etc.
The six bills were all introduced in the House on February 2 by freshman Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS1), as his first pieces of legislation. The bills are H.R. 713, H.R. 714, H.R. 715, H.R. 716, H.R. 717, and H.R. 718.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bills collectively provide a needed heads-up period and subsequent accountability for the format that federal law is increasingly taking.
“[Biden’s] message speaks of unity and bipartisanship, but his governing is quite different,” Rep. Mann said in a press release. “Congress was created to legislate and governing by executive order is not legislating. That is why today I am introducing… six pieces of legislation promoting accountability and transparency. We must hold our government accountable. I did not run for Congress to be a caretaker of the slow demise of our great nation — I ran for Congress to make America stronger, make government transparent, and to hold our leaders accountable.”
What opponents say
GovTrack was unable to locate any statements of opposition, but opponents might counter that these six bills are merely posturing and red meat to a rightwing base, since they only demand presidential transparency on hot-button issues for conservatives like abortion and guns, rather than on all executive orders on all subjects.
Odds of passage
All the bills have been referred to potential votes in four separate House committees: two to Judiciary, two to Energy and Commerce, one to Agriculture, and one to Natural Resources.Five of the six bills have attracted two Republican cosponsors, while another (H.R. 714, to Energy and Commerce) has attracted four Republican cosponsors.
Odds of passage are low in the Democratic-controlled Congress.