Never let a crisis go to waste, Rahm Emanuel once advised. Add to that this new axiom: Never let your emergency powers expire. As incompetent as Joe Biden might otherwise be, he’s proven adept at following both.
The Biden administration extended the Covid-19 pandemic’s status as a public health emergency for another 90 days, preserving measures such as expanded Medicaid and higher payments to hospitals.
The decision follows comments President Biden made in September describing the pandemic as over. Some Republican lawmakers said afterward that the administration should wind down its pandemic response and the emergency designation.
Er … yeah, didn’t Biden make that clear at the time? In his 60 Minutes interview with Scott Pelley less than four weeks ago, Biden walked around the Detroit auto show without a mask, and remarked about how normal it seemed, and how “everybody seems to be in pretty good shape“:
Biden used emergency covid declaration to enact student loan forgiveness and this is why Scott Pelley is a bad journalist and interviewer. https://t.co/ZCpdvrqf0S
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) September 19, 2022
Scott Pelley: Mr. President, first Detroit Auto Show in three years. Is the pandemic over?
President Joe Biden: The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it. It’s– but the pandemic is over. if you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing. And I think this is a perfect example of it.
That was just three weeks ago. What makes this an “emergency” now? Even with the CDC still reporting correlative data rather than causative, ER visits with COVID diagnoses are near a year-long low and dropping. Reported cases are bottoming out as well, as are correlated deaths (still no breakout for causation), as are correlated hospital admissions. Even wastewater surveillance — which would take place regardless of emergency status — shows a decline in prevalence despite the addition of many new sites in the mix.
So why is the pandemic over but not the emergency? For one thing, Biden still wants emergency cash from Congress:
The White House has asked Congress for $22.4 billion in additional pandemic funding. Republican lawmakers have said the administration has untapped Covid-19 relief funds it should be using first. Republican Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky said Thursday that the administration has failed to provide a detailed plan to unwind the pandemic emergency.
In other words, Biden’s extending the emergency to answer demands that Biden has no plans to unwind the emergency — even after admitting on national TV that “the pandemic is over.” Only in Washington would that make any sense at all, and even then only in an administration as addled as Biden’s.
The emergency is over. The emergency powers should be rescinded, and Biden should seek funding through the normal budget process. Biden’s extension of emergency status is about power, not public health. It’s high time Congress acts to bring this to an end, and that should be a much broader impulse to check executive power than limited to just “some Republican lawmakers.”