This new virus, the ‘Covid-19 pandemic’, affected many countries around the world. Due to their different political and governmental structures, countries started coping with this pandemic by taking different measures. Some of these measurements allowed many governmental leaders to expand their power instead of sharing it with other government branches such as the states or local governments. Some of the common ones that many countries were implementing to lower the disease’s spread were announcing lockdown on public schools, transportation, bars, cinemas, museums, and telling coffee shops to force people to use take out.

Since not all countries worldwide have the same political systems, those who practice different political systems beside unilateral system of government faced some challenges in having an adequate response. For example, one of the challenges that those countries that use federal governmental systems faced during this time of the outbreak was the lack of power to make ‘unilateral decisions’ since different states or local governments had a different way of practicing the law. 

Passing a new policy of’ a travel ban is one of the measures some countries did to slow this virus’s spread. Some countries introduced ‘nationwide lockdown’ to not allow citizens to travel to other cities unless they go out for work or an emergency. Italy’s lockdown had been an exceptional one, and there have not been any other countries that responded to this outbreak as Italy did it. Encouraging people to avoid public gatherings and crowds within the country and passing ‘quarantine policies’ had been effective strategies that some countries did. In contrast, other countries were worried about global traveling and closing borders instead of taking an early response concerning their inner cities. Not having or setting up late testing stations for the people infected by the virus were also some of the most irresponsible mistakes some countries made. 

The United States of America is amongst the  countries most affected by this pandemic, with more than fifty million total cases and almost two million death cases (The New York Times,2020). The separation of power between the different government branches makes it hard to pass any new law. The role of policymaking that the states, judicial review, legislatures, and executives of the U.S. government play makes it hard for the president to create different policies that might seem adequate for tackling this deadly disease.

According to the USA Today magazine, “public health experts say face masks are an effective way to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but the inconsistent use of masks in the U.S. could lead to the cumulative loss of more than half a million lives by the end of February” (USA Today,2020). The newly elected president, Joe Biden, will issue a national mask mandate, requiring everyone to wear face-covering when they are inside public buildings (public transit areas, national parks, public school, and university buildings). There will be constitutional issues that all government branches must check before the federal agencies fulfill and execute this new policy. The U.S constitution, agreed upon by more than thirty states, gives specific power to the executive, legislatures, and judicial review to protect the constitution, and at the same time allows them to do what is good for the nation.

The president working with his administration agencies can issue a national mask mandate by claiming and announcing a ‘National emergency’ since this pandemic threatens the American citizens and the nation’s security; in a crisis the federal government’s usual power might not be compelling enough. Using the National Emergency Act passed by congress in 1976 will allow and give the federal government a transient increase of power to make changes till the crisis passes, or the legislatures will pass new laws to end the ‘national emergency’ state (The Atlantic, 2020). In American history, many elected presidencies exercised ‘inherent constitutional powers’ to perform new actions that were unconstitutional or outlawed by congress. For example, “George W. Bush’s programs of warrantless wiretapping and torture after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”; This act was totally against the U.S federal and international law, even though the main intention behind this act was protecting the security of the nation. 

Using the ‘Elastic Clause or inherent power,’ if the legislature passes and adapts the president’s new policy of issuing a national mask mandate in all public places, being the ‘Chief Of Executive’ will give the president the executive power to fulfill this policy. Later ‘Secretaries of dependent Departments’ appointed by the president (President’s Cabinet) working with their departments and sub-departments have to write and regulate the policy and regulations needed to enforce this new policy, and this will be a role played by the different ‘Bureaucracies’ of the government.  U.S Department of Health and Human Services can use the ‘Public Health Service Act’ passed by congress in 1944, which allows and gives the Secretary of this agency the power “to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases” into the U.S. or between states” (USA Today,2020). This will allow the elected president and the Center of Disease Control to mandate this new policy.

In this process, the legislature’s role will agree with Biden issuing this new policy of a national mask mandate in all public places. Since the Democratic Party is the majority party of the ‘House of Representatives,’ it is more likely that the ‘House of Representatives’ will give him more support since his party controls the agenda and have the capability of arranging a debate schedule when most of the representatives from the Republican Party are not present. In the ‘House of Representative,’ the Democratic Party holds more ‘Committee and Sub-committee’ positions, which are essential for passing a new bill or policy. Biden’s ‘policy of issuing a national mask mandate in all public places’ will be challenged the most in the ‘Senate House’ and will more likely die in the committee since the Republican Party is the majority party of the senate. The Republic Party holds the most’ Committee and Sub-committee’ positions in the ‘Senate House’ since this party is the majority. The legislatures can use the ‘power of the purse,’ policy that will allow them not to give any federal funding to the president, making it possible for the president to implement this policy without funding. The ‘Party Whips’ in both the Senate and House of Representatives will make sure these Legislatures will vote based on their party’s agenda. 

The role of the ‘Supreme Court’ in this process is to decide whether Biden as the newly elected president can issue a national mask mandate in all public places, and if it violates any constitutional laws. The ‘Supreme Court’ will check if the ‘Executive’ or the ‘Legislatures’ stretched their power too far to enforce this new policy. Since there are more possibilities that the federal government might take control over the states, the Supreme Court also must check if any unconstitutional actions such as shrinking and narrowing the power of the states was done by the congress, president, or his subordinates. Separating powers between the Federal Government and the States was incorporated in the U.S. Constitution signed by thirty-seven states in September,17,1787. The powers of the national government and the states are divided clearly in the constitution and violating the separation of power is unconstitutional by law.

Since there is no such law in the constitution that will force states to follow this policy of issuing a national mask mandate in all public places, many states will not follow or enforce it. This policy also has the limitation of only applying to ‘federal buildings.’ There are more private buildings than federal buildings, which allows people not to be subjected to these policies if they are not in federal buildings. States run by Democratic governors are more likely to accept Biden’s plan, while Republican governors are unlikely to accept this policy. Since not all states are financially capable of pushing and enforcing this policy, their law enforcement might not support it.

According to their political party’s plank and platform, some political party leaders will go against this policy. For example, the Conservative and the Libertarian Party will not support this policy since both parties promote and support less government regulation and interventions. On the Other side, Liberals will support this policy since it provides individualistic rights of protection. The Liberals also favor having more government regulations and programs so this policy will fit their agenda.

Since there are many organized groups of people with a shared belief on an issue that puts pressure on others in society regarding their specific concern, these groups will play their role to challenge or push Biden’s policy. Some of these groups are pluralism, hyper-pluralism, business, and economic benefit interest groups and ideological groups. Pharmaceutical and drug businesses and economic interest groups might support this policy since this policy might increase their demand and supply of products by creating ‘face-masks,’ to gain more profits. Since many of them are health professionals, they will use their knowledge to influence more people outside of their group to support this policy.

However, due to the federal system in America with the checks and balances, the new-elected president Biden’s policy will face many challenges in which the possibilities it might fail are high. Polarization and usage of the federal system make new policies hard to pass and accept by all government branches. This policy can only get a pass if Biden sets personal meetings with the state governors and convinces them of this new policy in their states. 

Sources

“50 U.S. Code Chapter 34 – NATIONAL EMERGENCIES.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/chapter-34.

“A Guide to Emergency Powers and Their Use.” Brennan Center for Justice, www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/guide-emergency-powers-and-their-use.

Crsreports.Congress.Gov, 2020, https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/LSB/LSB10530.

Goitein, Elizabeth. “The Alarming Scope Of The President’s Emergency Powers”. The Atlantic, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/presidential-emergency-powers/576418/.

Hauck, Grace. “Biden Wants Mask Mandates Nationwide, but He Can’t Actually Enforce Them. Here’s What He Could Do Instead.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 11 Nov. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/11/11/joe-biden-national-face-mask-mandate-covid/6233249002/.

ABUT THE AUTHOR

Sayidcali Ismail Ahmed is an alumnus of Abaarso School of Science and Technology (Somaliland) and Carroll High School (Indiana-USA). Sayidcali won a full scholarship sponsored by MasterCard Foundation Scholars (African Leadership Academy) to attend and do his undergraduate studies at Westminster College(Missouri- USA). He is double majoring in political science & Global and Transnational Studies and minoring in law. He is passionate about discussing, analyzing, and writing about geopolitics’ dynamics and the political changes in the world, especially Africa.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints of Somaliland Chronicle, and its staff. 

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