President Joe Biden caused confusion on Jan. 31 when he told a reporter the Supreme Court would “end” national COVID-19 emergency policies, after telling Congress the day before that his administration would terminate the emergencies on May 11.
In response to Republican proposals in Congress to end the national emergency and public health emergencies that were declared by the Trump administration three years ago, Biden’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in a statement (pdf) on Jan. 30 that it would extend the soon-to-expire emergencies to May 11 “and then end both emergencies on that date.”
Ending the twin emergency declarations would curb some of the federal agencies’ expansive powers in managing the government’s response to the virus and return agency operations to something closer to normal. Republicans, who took over the U.S. House of Representatives last month, say the emergencies are not justified and should be ended sooner.
But outside the White House on Jan. 31, as Biden was preparing to leave by helicopter, Kristen Welker of NBC News asked the president, “What’s behind your decision to end the COVID emergency?”
Biden replied, “Well, the emergency will end when the Supreme Court ends it. We’ve extended it to May the 15th to make sure we get everything done. That’s all. There’s nothing behind it at all.”
Veteran Supreme Court observer Curt Levey, president of the conservative Committee for Justice, said it isn’t clear what the president was referring to. Biden’s comment appeared to be a “gaffe” committed by a “gaffe-prone president,” Levey said.
The Supreme Court is scheduled in coming weeks to hear cases about government policies that are predicated on the COVID-19 state of emergency, Levey noted.
On Feb. 28, the court will hear Biden v. Nebraska and Brown v. Department of Education, which deal with Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. And on March 1, the court will hear Arizona v. Mayorkas, a challenge to Biden’s proposal to repeal the Title 42 public health order that allows rapid removal of illegal aliens at the border. Both the student loan program and the rescission of the Title 42 order have been halted–at least for the time being—by the courts.
“Ultimately, it’s not up to the Supreme Court to say if there’s an emergency or not, but certainly, there have been cases that come down to whether or not the COVID-19 emergency can justify everything from a rent moratorium to student loan forgiveness,” Levey said.
“So, my guess is that that’s what he was thinking of, even though it’s not quite accurate,” he added.
Media figures and politicians called into question Biden’s Supreme Court comment.
Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Tex.) referenced Biden’s statement and replied, “Not if Congress ends it first.”
“It’s way beyond time to rein in out-of-control executive authority,” Cloud wrote on Twitter.
Commentary associate editor Noah Rothman suggested on Twitter that Biden’s statement was an admission that emergency pandemic measures were unlawful.
“Reasonable to infer a slip/admission against interest regarding the fact that the public health emergency exists to justify policy prescriptions that otherwise have no legal justification,” Rothman wrote.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the White House for comment.
This article by Matthew Vadum appeared Feb. 1, 2023, in The Epoch Times. It was updated Feb. 2, 2023.