We Don’t Have to Live in Mitch McConnell’s World – Max Moran

Video ThumbnailIf he wants to, and that's a big if, Biden has several tools available to circumvent McConnell’s Senate and still appoint the Cabinet secretaries he needs; plus 277 actions that are in the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force documents that can be accomplished with an executive order. Max Moran joins Paul

If he wants to, and that’s a big if, Biden has several tools available to circumvent McConnell’s Senate and still appoint the Cabinet secretaries he needs; plus 277 actions that are in the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force documents that can be accomplished with an executive order. Max Moran joins Paul Jay on theAnalysis.news podcast.

Transcript

Paul Jay
Hi, I’m Paul Jay, and welcome to theAnalysis.news podcast, and please don’t forget the donate button at
the top of the web page.


Max Moran writes in an article in American Prospect titled, “We Don’t Have to Live in Mitch McConnell’s
World,” quote, “It’s important to recognize that the idea of hopelessness around a Biden Cabinet is
nonsense. Biden has several tools available to him to circumvent McConnell’s Senate and still appoint the
Cabinet secretaries he needs. And to have any hope of Democratic victory in 2022 and 2024, Biden must
not only build a functional, Rooseveltian government, but he must take public credit for it — and publicly
jeer those who would stand in his way.”


Now joining us to discuss just what Biden could do if he wanted to, is Max Moran. He’s a research
assistant at the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Thanks for joining us.

Max Moran
Thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here.

Paul Jay
So, I’ve been watching a lot of Fox News these days.

Max Moran
I’m sorry for you.

Paul Jay
Well, actually, I find it more interesting than CNN and MSNBC, which I find mostly nauseating.

Max Moran
Fair.

Paul Jay
I said to Taibbi, Matt Taibbi, at least there’s the odd surprise on Fox. Like the night of the election, Fox
was very pro-Biden, which was interesting. I think the Murdoch empire is getting ready for the Trump
media empire, so they’re getting ready to start trashing Trump as a competitor. But the speculation on the
Fox News panels when discussing the issue of the cabinet appointments, and generally Biden working

with the Senate, and the fact that it’s not impossible that the Democrats might still take the Senate if they
win the run-off races in Georgia — the Fox people are speculating, well, maybe Biden would rather have a
Republican Senate and have that as sort of an excuse for why he can’t do the stuff the progressives are
really pushing him to do. I don’t know that Biden would really do that. I assume he would rather be able to
do something than just be half a lame-duck president. But your whole point of what you’ve been
researching is he doesn’t have to be half a lame-duck president just because the Republicans have the
Senate.
So, let’s assume Biden actually does want to do something. Who knows? “Rooseveltian” might be too
much to hope for. But let’s say there’s sufficient pressure on him both from the progressives, from a
people’s movement, from their concern about what’s going to happen in the elections and from a deep,
deep economic depression, so the crisis is such that it actually not only cries out for some kind of
Rooseveltian-style approach, but there might even be some political room for him to do it.
In short, what can he do? Let’s start with the cabinet. What can he do without the Senate? How can Biden
govern as if the Senate doesn’t exist? That’s what I would argue for.

Max Moran
There is a surprisingly large number of things and a number of paths that he can take without ever having
to go through the Senate in order to govern and in order to actually accomplish a lot of really big things.
As we’ve been researching, Biden basically does not have to go anywhere near the Senate in order to
install a cabinet if he doesn’t want to. He has two different paths for doing that. First, he can use The
Vacancies Act [The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998]. This is the reason why all of these Trump
appointees have the word “acting” in front of their titles. It’s because Trump has aggressively used the
Vacancies Act, which basically lets you either put a different Senate-confirmed person in charge of a
cabinet job. So, you can take the Democratic commissioners on the Federal Trade Commission, for
instance, and say, “Hey, you’re temporarily the Secretary of Commerce,” or you can elevate –

Paul Jay
So, when somebody’s been approved by the Senate, it’s up to the president what actual job they have?

Max Moran
Well, the under the Vacancies Act, you can temporarily put someone into a different job. You would
nominate someone through the Senate for a very specific thing. But once someone has been confirmed,
like these commissioners on these multi-person agencies, then with the Vacancies Act you can put them
in charge of whatever you want on a temporary basis.
You can do that, or —

Paul Jay
Just, just — let me stop you for a sec.

Max Moran
Sure.

Paul Jay
Why did Trump use this when the Republicans controlled the Senate?

Max Moran
Simply, laziness and the fact that someone might ask hard questions of the people whom he appointed
and he can’t stand the idea of anyone ever criticizing or questioning him. This is the ethos of running the
government like a business. Well, the CEO in business isn’t used to having people ever question him,
even though obviously the Republican sycophants in the Senate are going to confirm whoever Trump
puts forward. You know, he just didn’t want to have to go through the work of having to actually dot his i’s
and cross his t’s to get full confirmation for the people in each of these different jobs.
So, he’s been running around using these acting secretary positions for no reason other than that he just
didn’t want to do the work. In other words, Republicans have spent four years, basically, being completely
fine with a president aggressively using the Vacancies Act for their own purposes. They’re in no position
to complain if Biden does it. They’re going to complain anyway, but Biden just shouldn’t bother listening to
them because, clearly, they have no standing on this — or on most else, but we’ll get into that.
So, he can use that. He can also take a civil servant, a career employee within the Treasury Department
or Commerce or what have you, and temporarily elevate them into the top job, also under the Vacancies
Act. And the final path that he can take is he can basically force the Senate into an adjournment using a
clause in the Constitution. And while —

Paul Jay
Before you go there, he can use the Vacancy Act at any time, even if the Senate is in session?

Max Moran
Yes, at any time, no matter what. All that he has to do is say that he is invoking his powers under the
Vacancies Act to make someone into an acting treasury secretary and acting what-have-you, and either,
again, bring in a commissioner from a different agency or elevate a civil servant up to the secretary job.

Paul Jay

I’m assuming this doesn’t apply to the Supreme Court.

Max Moran
It does not apply to the Supreme Court, sadly. There’s no way around —

Paul Jay
But everything else?

Max Moran
Yes. Everything that’s within the executive branch, you can do it.

Paul Jay
OK, go on. Door number two.

Max Moran
Yes. Path number two is you can force the Senate into an adjournment using an unusual clause in the
Constitution. This would require a little bit of what they call constitutional hardball. Again, this is what
Mitch McConnell does all the time. It’s past time for Democrats to say, if you’re going to do it, we’ll do it,
too. If Biden actually believes in bipartisanship and in meeting Republicans where they are, well, here’s
where Republicans are. While the Senate is in adjournment, if it’s for more than ten days, and Biden has
the power to force the Senate into adjournment for however long he wants to, you can appoint someone
to an acting secretary role. In this case, it can be whoever you want. It doesn’t have to be a civil servant
or different official. You can appoint anybody that you want, same as you would for a normal Senate
confirmation.
Those are the two main paths that are available to him to basically avoid having to play Mitch McConnell’s
game, avoid having to either bend over backwards and appoint a bunch of corporate lobbyists who
probably are still going to get blocked, anyway, because it’s Mitch McConnell and he just lives to block
anyone who has the letter “D” next to their name. Instead, Biden can appoint these figures and he can
use them to execute on a surprisingly large number of things that you can do solely through executive
power.

Paul Jay
So, just to be clear, in the second option, he can force an adjournment and then that appointment lasts
until the next session of Congress?

Max Moran
Yes.

Paul Jay
And he could then do it all over again.

Max Moran
You can do it all over again. Precisely.

Paul Jay
So, you don’t need the Senate to appoint people, is what it amounts to.

Max Moran
Effectively, yes. You know, there’s a bunch of extra steps that you have to go through in order to do it this
way. But, you know, it’s a couple of extra hoops to jump through and then you’ve got a functioning
government.

Paul Jay
And when has it been done? Or has it been done? Door number two: the forced adjournment.

Max Moran
So, the forced adjournment has never been done before. That is under a clause in the Constitution that
basically says that if the House and the Senate can’t agree on when and whether they want to adjourn,
then the president gets to be the deciding factor in there. So, Biden would need the Speaker of the House
to essentially say to Mitch McConnell, I want to adjourn Congress for at least ten days, probably more.
Then, either McConnell agrees to that, in which case you have your adjournment and you can make your
recess appointments, or McConnell disagrees or just ignores it. And in either of those cases, the
president then gets to be the deciding vote on whether or not Congress is going to adjourn. Biden says,
OK, I have decided that we are going to adjourn Congress for however many days, at least ten, in which
case you have your adjournments and you can do whatever you want.

Paul Jay
It’s never been done. What’s the likelihood the Supreme Court would find it constitutional? Like, how clear
cut is what you’re laying out?

Max Moran
It’s very clear cut. It’s written directly into the Constitution that the president has the power to, in this
circumstance, adjourn Congress for whatever length of time he chooses. There is arguably a
conservative argument that limits the president’s ability to make these types of adjournments in the first
place. But the way that we look at it, in order for that case to get to the Supreme Court, you’ve already
had plenty of time in order to implement your people, bring your people on, and using the sort of
executive-branch-focused agenda that we’re pushing for, that’s already plenty of time in order to
implement the things that you’re pushing for. And moreover, if the Supreme Court causes you trouble,
that only lends credence to the argument, which we also think that Biden should push extremely publicly,
that it is time to un-rig our courts, that our courts are no longer a representation of the democratic will.

Paul Jay
But there’s nothing that can be done about the Supreme Court without the Senate, is that right? That
really does require the Senate.

Max Moran
That does require the Senate.

Paul Jay
If they want to pack the court, add some more people to the Supreme Court, that’s not doable without the
Senate.

Max Moran
You need the Senate in order to pack the Supreme Court. You need the Senate in order to curtail or limit
the Supreme Court’s authority, which would also be constitutional.
Now, Andrew Jackson ignored certain Supreme Court decisions when he simply did not like what they
called for. I do not think nor do I necessarily want Biden to just start ignoring Supreme Court decisions.
But the point is that it has been done before, historically. Again, Andrew Jackson is not the figure that we
should ever want a president to look to as a model, but that is something which has been done before.
These are institutions. They are not, like, iron laws of nature.

Paul Jay
Let me remind everybody that we’re talking about what Biden could do. We’re not sitting here thinking
Biden’s likely to do any of this —

Max Moran

Precisely.

Paul Jay
— without enormous pressure coming from a people’s movement, from progressives, and so on. But that
there are real options here is important because otherwise they’ll claim their hands are tied and can’t do
anything. And your whole point is their hands are not tied.
So, let’s go further. Now he’s appointed his cabinet the way he wants, and in our imaginary world, it’s
Rooseveltian. Now they want to do something without the Senate. So, what can they do?

Max Moran
Well, they can do a surprising amount. Did you know that you can eliminate 95% of student loan debt just
by having the secretary of education sign a piece of paper? Ninety-five percent of student loan debt is
owed to the federal government through federal loan programs. Same as literally any other loan, a debt
holder can say, you know what, I forgive this debt. I don’t care about getting paid back anymore. We’re
just going to pretend that this never happened. This is a perfectly legal, perfectly simple action. Biden just
has to appoint a secretary of education who is willing to forgive ninety-five percent of student loan debts.
Did you know that — well, this is actually a pretty straightforward one, but appoint a good attorney general,
and, for one thing, clear out Trump’s appointments to the AG [i.e., DOJ], and bring in your own people.
And then you can start prosecuting big oil companies. You can start prosecuting big pharma companies.
You can start prosecuting big tech companies. You can bring a lot of really aggressive actions simply
through what’s on the books. Appoint a really good IRS commissioner, and you can totally reorient our tax
system’s priorities so that instead of going after people who make mistakes on their taxes because they’re
busy and they’re poor, you’re instead going after multibillionaires who are engaging in tax evasion, who
are trying to hide their funds all over the planet. Appoint a good EPA commissioner and you can be going
into —

Paul Jay
Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on. There’s nothing that can be done about the Trump tax legislation,
the tax cuts, without the Senate. But you’re saying administratively you could shift the pendulum back
some.

Max Moran
Precisely. And it’s also important to keep in mind that especially on things as complex as tax law, an
extraordinary amount of what the law is, in effect, just comes down to what parts of the law you end up
enforcing. You can’t, without the Senate, raise the corporate tax rate, for instance, but you can reorient
priorities away from, you know, going after small-ball tax evasion, small-ball mistakes on people’s taxes

and going towards the actually quite significant number of tools that are on the books in order to crack
down on people hiding money in offshore bank accounts, in order to crack down on corporations who are
using various tax loopholes in order to hide money all around the world.
So, you can’t reverse the Trump tax cuts without the Senate, but, if you have the right person leading it
the right way, you can reorient the IRS’s enforcement mechanism in order to really go after and quite
significantly change wealth inequality in this country.

Paul Jay
Go on. What else? You have to you have a list of 277 things that could be done.

Max Moran
Yes. So, I developed a list a few months ago of 277 actions that are in the Biden-Sanders Unity Task
Force documents. These are actions that have buy-in from basically across the entire Democratic Party
and which you can do just through executive-branch powers by putting the right people in the right places.
So, these are really 277 —

Paul Jay
We’ll put a link to this list in the transcript of the interview. Go on.

Max Moran
So, these are really 277 things that have very broad buy-in across the Democratic Party. The only thing
that would be keeping Biden from doing them would be Biden.
Then, on top of that, there were a lot of other things that Biden can do solely through executive-branch
powers that would have a transformative effect on the country that he just hasn’t necessarily shown an
interest in yet, but which you can pressure him into doing. Antitrust law, breaking up monopolies —

Paul Jay
Well, the most urgent thing is climate.

Max Moran
Yes.

Paul Jay

And he says he wants to have this massive stimulus plan, infrastructure plan that will be green. Of
course, even if Biden wants to do this, his inclination is going to be to do it in a way that’s very
collaborative with the financial sector. And that’s a whole ‘nother issue: what’s actually an effective green
infrastructure program and what’s a cash cow for people to make a lot of money that might not wind up
being that effective.
But set aside that argument for now. If the Senate really becomes an obstruction to any big infrastructure
program — and there’s a lot of these deficit hawks still in the Republican Party who weren’t that active
under a Trump administration, but the debt might all of a sudden worry them because they’re not running
the White House anymore — what can be done on the climate front without the approval of the Senate?

Max Moran
Well, a good amount of Biden’s climate plan that he put out actually runs largely through executive-branch
powers. And also, these are the parts of that overlap with tackling inequality. These are things like a
massive expansion in government contracting powers in order to do things like build out an entirely green
fleet of federal vehicles; in order to do things like build out publicly subsidized energy, that’s green energy;
in order to go into communities and work with them to build a climate transfer program. All of these things
are done through the executive branch. The executive branch handles spending within the government.
We know that there’s a lot of power that you can wield in order to green the country, in order to green the
planet, if you simply have climate warriors controlling how the government handles its finances. So, if you
appoint a climate warrior to the Office of Management and Budget, for instance, the part of the
government that handles government spending — if you have the right person in these places, then you
can ensure that the government is only contracting with and is only building out green infrastructure, is
only building out green parts of these various plans.
You mentioned Wall Street earlier. There’s going to be a massive —

Paul Jay
Well, just this before you do Wall Street. One of the obvious ones he can do through executive order, I
would think, is restructure the Pentagon budget to make that greening process that’s happening in the
Pentagon much more urgent and much broader. Now, of course, they should cut the Pentagon budget by
— I don’t know — 90% would suit me. But I don’t suppose you can completely change the budget of the
Pentagon without the Senate, but you could certainly change how the money is being spent. Or can you?

Max Moran
You can change large amounts of how the money is spent. Some of that money is specifically set up
through Congress in terms of, this is specifically allocated to building out this number of jets. That kind of
thing. But a large amount of it is also, basically, we’re going to give you this sum of money; you do what

you want with it. That applies to the Pentagon; that applies across the federal government. All of that
money has to run through OMB, and if you get the right person at OMB, then all of that money can go
towards green energy. All that money can go towards green projects.

Paul Jay
OK, go back to Wall Street.

Max Moran
[Laughs.] Ok, yes: climate finance is going to be a major issue in the upcoming years because, as we’ve
seen especially in the Covid-19 pandemic, Big Oil just isn’t profitable like it used to be. And it’s reliant very
heavily on Wall Street and on the financial industry in order to prop itself up. If you get green warriors at
the Treasury Department, at the SEC, at the OCC, and at all the financial regulators, you can use those
very broad powers. Because the financial regulators have extremely broad leeway within their respective
areas to implement rules and implements changes to how Wall Street conducts its business that basically
makes it unprofitable for them to ever invest in Big Oil again. It basically makes it unprofitable for them to
invest in in any field which exacerbates the climate crisis.
Again, these are going to be very hard-fought battles because Wall Street understands very directly the
power of these agencies. But there’s actually a little bit of cause for hope on this. Biden has named Gary
Gensler, who was a warrior for the good guys back in 2008, as the person who’s overseeing the survey of
the financial regulators in order to figure out what the states of these agencies are and what our priorities
should be going forward.

Paul Jay
He used to head up the Commodities Future…

Max Moran
Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Yes, precisely. Yes.

Paul Jay
Yeah. They were quite activist in terms of dealing with the concentration of ownership in the commodities
markets.

Max Moran
Yes, Gensler is definitely someone who is going to be willing to talk to the left, who is going to be taking
very seriously issues like climate change. If he returns with reviews and recommendations that are taken

seriously, you can end up with really, really great financial regulators. If you end up with great financial
regulators, you can have a transformative effect on the American economy.

Paul Jay
So, let’s go back to Gary Gensler again, because I didn’t know that, and that’s quite significant. So, what
has he been exactly appointed to? Because that’s a fairly progressive appointment.

Max Moran
It is. So, Biden hasn’t named the specific heads of his specific agencies yet. That’s probably going to be
coming either late November or early December if this ends up going along the same timeline as Obama
did. Gensler is essentially in charge of what are called “the landing parties” for the financial regulatory
agencies. These are the people who are designated to go into each of these agencies and to say, “OK,
what’s going on here? What are the current regs? What are the current rules? What’s the current staff
looking like?” and so on, in order to ease the transition process.
Now, you’re going to have a problem, and that’s that Trump is a child and is not going to want to work
alongside Biden or alongside Biden’s people to provide them with information. But either way, Gensler is
now the person who’s in charge of reporting back to the Biden people, “OK, this is the story at the
financial regulatory agencies, and here is what I would recommend going forward.” This also puts him in a
very good position to say, “I would like to be an FCC commissioner,” or, “I would like to have a major job
within Treasury,” or so on, because obviously he knows the ins and outs of these agencies at this point.
That means that the person who is framing for Biden what the current status of American financial
regulation looks like is someone who is a progressive ally. That’s definitely cause for hope.

Paul Jay
And do we know who chose Gensler? Is that Biden, or who’s in Biden’s team that would have known to
pick Gensler?

Max Moran
I don’t know who specifically picked Gensler. I know that the person who is leading Biden’s transition is
Ted Kaufman, who was very much on the good side in 2008. He temporarily replaced Biden in the Senate
when Biden became the vice president. And Gensler was fighting hard for a something approximating a
Glass-Steagall Act in order to separate investment banking from commercial banking. And he was also,
and has remained, a very open critic of corruption and of the revolving door and of sort of business as
usual within D.C.

Paul Jay

The commodities exchange [i.e., Commodity Futures Trading Commission] — Gensler and Bart Chilton,
who was working with them — took a very good position on position limits, that you couldn’t have any
single individual or enterprise own too much of any specific commodity. They wound up, I think, actually
losing that fight after passing it. I think they lost in federal court, but they tried to go back to Rooseveltian-
style legislation that limited how much control anybody could have over a specific commodity. I mean,
we’re talking food here and things like that. It’s not just some abstraction of “commodities.” People could
buy up 20, 30, 40 percent of corn or wheat or something and start controlling the price. They were
pushing back on that.
But define what you mean by “on the good side of 2008.” I know what you’re talking about, but let’s make
sure everyone listening does.

Max Moran
Kaufman was fighting for a stimulus and for a response to the financial crisis that was not about bailing
out the big banks, that was not about just making sure that the biggest banks and the richest folks get to
hold on to their money, but was instead about, first and foremost, helping out average people, making
sure that average people aren’t going to lose their jobs, aren’t going to be harmed by reckless activity on
Wall Street. And second of all, [a response that was] about saying, “OK, what the hell happened here with
this financial crisis and what are we going to do to prevent this from happening again, whether Wall Street
wants it or not?” That is a very rare position for someone to stake out in Washington.

Paul Jay
Now, of course, one of the big appointments is going to be at the Fed, if he wants to. Where does that
seem to be leaning?

Max Moran
It’s unclear, as far as the Fed goes. We can say that, of course, Janet Yellen wants to be treasury
secretary, which would be interesting, and she is being taken seriously within the Biden camp. It’s unclear
if the current Fed chairman wants to stay on or what that fight would specifically look like. There’s a lot
more hubbub and a lot more conversation about treasury secretary at the moment, either for Yellen —

Paul Jay
Well, apparently, one of the lobbying efforts going on is either Larry Fink himself, the head of BlackRock,
or a Larry Fink ally. Apparently, Fink has been getting ready for this fight to try to get him or one of his
people at Treasury. Anyone that follows The Analysis knows I talk about BlackRock all the time because
it’s the biggest asset management company; they’ve got something like seven trillion dollars under
management and have enormous clout in the markets and in politics. If this becomes a straight Wall
Street appointment, that’s going to mean we’re looking at an Obama type of economic policy that helped

till the soil for Trump. If it’s not a straight Wall Street appointment, then maybe Biden or the people talking
to Biden actually do want to go at least in a slightly different direction. Hopefully more than slightly.
But progressives wouldn’t be aghast at Yellen, right? She wouldn’t be a straight Wall Street flack. Or
would she?

Max Moran
No, no. Progressives would be would be OK with Yellen, I suppose. You know. It’s pretty clear that Biden
is looking for a way to thread the needle on treasury. He knows that he can’t get Larry Fink in office. He
knows that almost certainly a Larry Fink flack would also trigger just as large of a push-back. And
progressives are actively looking into which Larry Fink stooges are most likely to try to get x, y, or z
position, and are getting ready to have those particular flights as well.
But the fact that Yellen is in consideration means that Biden is taking quite seriously the notion that, no,
there are actually two different perspectives on this within the Democratic Party and he should try to find
someone who can at least be acceptable to both of them. So, I think that Yellen would be a very smart
pick if that’s his goal.

Paul Jay
Are you hearing anything serious about a Warren or even a Sanders in the cabinet?

Max Moran
They both certainly want it. It seems unlikely, especially — I mean, absolutely — if the Democrats pull off a
clean sweep in Georgia and manage to have a 50-50 Senate with the vice president as the tie-breaking
vote. In that case, you can’t afford to give up any seats whatsoever.

Paul Jay
Except if it’s in a state with a Democratic governor, they can know ahead of time that the appointee that’s
replaced will be a Democrat. So, they don’t have to worry that much.

Max Moran
Yes, but both Massachusetts and Vermont have Republican governors right now.

Paul Jay
OK, well, that shows my ignorance. [Laughter.]

Max Moran
You’re all good; no worries.
I think much more likely is that they’ll both be pressing to install some of their allies in various jobs. There
are already conversations about that. Some members of the transition team, the Biden transition team,
came directly from Elizabeth Warren’s campaign or are long-time allies of hers. Bernie’s team, I don’t
know as much, but I would assume that they’re making the same types of outreach, the same types of
considerations. I think you’re already seeing Warren pivoting, at least on Twitter but that’s a presage to
things within the Senate, making it very clear that she will not in any way allow Biden to appoint lobbyists
without a very significant fight. So, that, I think, is where the conversation goes.

Paul Jay
You were about to talk about antitrust. There was a recent report from one of the Senate committees on
antitrust — a lot of talk about breaking up Big Tech. Certainly, Sanders in the past is talk about breaking
up big banks. I don’t think Biden’s ever talked about anything like that. But what can be done in terms of
antitrust without the Senate?

Max Moran
Antitrust falls entirely within the executive-branch domain because the way that you break up a company
is that you bring a lawsuit about it. Who brings that lawsuit? The DOJ. So, while it would be nice to be
able to pass new antitrust statutes in order to clarify intent, in order to override certain things, you can
absolutely bring new cases. You can continue the ongoing Google case right now, and you can bring the
cases against the banks, against Big Ag, against all of these corporate monoliths that are controlling the
economy right now.
And you can very aggressively message that this is what you’re doing, which is maybe just as important.
If you want to retake the Senate, and you should, in 2022 and 2024, then I would argue that you
absolutely need to both be doing things that help average people, things like student debt forgiveness
and so on, and also be aggressively messaging: “I am doing this for you. I’m doing this because I care
about you. Mitch McConnell does not. Mitch McConnell wants you to struggle through this pandemic,
struggle through this recession, struggle through climate change, struggle for racial injustice. But I’m
trying to fight for you. I need your help. Help me to flip this Senate.” That, I think, is the only way that
Democrats can have even the tiniest chance of actually taking back the full government and finally
delivering the change that we need.

Paul Jay
What can be done in terms of health care, through executive order? Anything?

Max Moran
It’s a little complex. You can use march-in rights on vaccines and I believe also on certain medications to
essentially say, if the government helps to fund the creation of this — and the Covid-19 vaccine applies
here — then the people through the government represents are entitled to access to it. This is a tool that
has been on the books for a long time. It has been wildly underused, wildly underutilized. I believe there
are some changes you can make to patent monopolies and copyright law in order to provide similar
effects. I’m sure that there are some tweaks that you can make within the Center for Medicare and
Medicaid Services, as far as the administration of those programs. Healthcare is not my particular field of
specialty, but I know that there are a significant number of powers on the books that have gone
underutilized.

Paul Jay
If Biden were to declare, for example, that Covid is a national emergency — and I’m not sure what the
technical term is, but whatever it is — does it change what’s required to spend money? For example, could
he fund states and cities under the declaration of a national emergency? Could he do that? Right now,
the states and cities are in horrendous shape. Teachers are getting laid off and schools can’t afford to
properly bring kids back to school because they can’t afford what it takes to make it safe for Covid. Fire
departments, police departments, teachers — I mean, on and on. Without the Senate, can an emergency
declaration allow that kind of spending power?

Max Moran
I don’t know, off the top of my head, whether an emergency declaration allows that kind of power. I do
think it shows that the continuing resolution, in order to keep the government afloat, is going to be the first
major test of whether Biden is going to play Mitch McConnell’s game or not. Is he is going to concede left,
right and center in order to just get something passed or is he going to recognize that he has more
leverage than he thinks he does? Is he actually going to stand up for the people?

Paul Jay
OK, final thing: Biden picks up the phone and calls you and he says, “OK, what are the first few executive
orders I should do?” What’s your answer?

Max Moran
First and foremost, I would say, again, student debt forgiveness. Student debt is the largest category of
consumer debt in this country now. If you eliminate 95% of that, that is a sea change overnight in the
global economy.

Paul Jay

It’s, like, a trillion dollars, right?

Max Moran
Yes, absolutely. I would say, clear out Trump’s appointees at the DOJ, install your own people, and have
them immediately start prosecuting big corporations for their lawbreaking. Obama did not clean house at
DOJ and that led to disasters down the road. Biden needs to do that day one. You can do that day one.
And it would send an extraordinary message to see DOJ lawyers bringing court cases left, right and
center against corporate America.
If I had to pick the last one, I might honestly say decriminalizing cannabis. That’s something which the
executive branch can do on its own. It sends a very clear message. It reallocates certain resources and it
also begins a larger conversation, a larger, honest conversation, about the war on drugs and then through
that about race in America. All of these things I think, are crucial.

Paul Jay
All right, great. Thanks very much for joining us, Max.

Max Moran
Thanks for having me.

Paul Jay
And just tell us where people can find this information?

Max Moran
Sure. You can go to therevolvingdoorproject.org. I would also recommend checking out the American
Prospect’s Day-One Agenda, which is all about tools that the executive branch can use on its own in
order to improve people’s lives.

Paul Jay
Great. Thank you. And thank you for joining us on theAnalysis.news podcast. And please don’t forget the
donate button at the top of the Web page.

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