President Biden Begins to Roll Out Plan for First 100 Days in Office

The new president signed 17 executive actions focused primarily on combating COVID-19 and its economic fallout, immigration and the environment — with additional moves planned to promote abortion and transgender rights.

U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration today in Washington, D.C.
U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration today in Washington, D.C. (photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has begun to follow through on his numerous promises on the campaign trail regarding the actions he will take in his first 100 days in office.

His top priorities, reflected Wednesday afternoon with the signing of 17 executive orders, include addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, comprehensive action on immigration, and rolling out his $2-trillion plan on climate change.

Biden is also expected to take rapid action to undo many of President Donald Trump’s pro-life policies and expand abortion access. 

In December, Biden promised to get 100 million Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 in his first 100 days in office. On Friday, he repeated that pledge and indicated that he would invoke the Defense Production Act, as needed, to increase the supply of the vaccine. However the plan “won’t mean that everyone in these groups will get vaccinated immediately, because supply is not where it needs to be.” 

Biden has called for more widespread availability for the vaccine using mobile vaccination units and working with independent and chain pharmacies to reach underserved communities. He plans to block an executive order from President Trump that would have lifted COVID-related travel restrictions on incoming travelers from 26 European countries. He has echoed President Trump’s call to get the vaccine to priority groups of those ages 65 and older and frontline workers. 

On Day One, he also launched a “100 Days Masking Challenge” that mandates masks on federal property and when traveling interstate. He also halted the Trump administration’s planned departure from the World Health Organization (WHO) and installed Dr. Anthony Fauci as the head of the U.S. delegation to the WHO. 

 

Economic Recovery 

In addition to the $20 billion allocated for the vaccination program, Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion relief package includes measures to address the economic impact from the pandemic like $1,400 in stimulus checks as well as more controversial steps such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Biden acknowledged last week that “people tell me that’s going to be hard to pass — Florida just passed it, as divided as that state is they just passed it,” and said that “if you work for less than $15 an hour and work 40 hours a week, you’re living in poverty.” The proposed relief package, which will have to make it through Congress, also includes $130 billion to enable schools to safely reopen. In his Day One executive actions, Biden also extended the pause in place on student loan payments due to the pandemic as well as measures to prevent evictions and foreclosures.

Other elements of his “Build Back Better” economic recovery plan that he will attempt to initiate during a joint session of Congress in February would includeinvesting billions in emergency funding for state and local governments and American small businesses. In order to obtain the funding for his proposals, Biden’s plan states that he would “pay for the ongoing costs of the plan by reversing some of Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and imposing common-sense tax reforms that finally make sure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.”

 

Immigration

Five of the 17 executive actions today were directly related to immigration, reflecting the central priority Biden has assigned to reversing course from the policies implemented by his predecessor Donald Trump. The actions included strengthening the DACA (Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals) program, overturning the Trump administration’s restrictions on U.S. entry for residents of seven Muslim-majority countries, reversing the Trump administration’s expansion of immigration policy within the U.S., and halting construction on the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Earlier, Biden promised in his agenda for the Latino community that “on his first day in office,” he “will send to Congress a bill for legislative immigration reform that will modernize our immigration system and give nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants a roadmap to citizenship.” 

He also said he would “immediately review every Temporary Protected Status (TPS) decision made by the Trump administration to ensure that no one is returned to a country that is not safe, extend TPS to Venezuelans seeking relief from the humanitarian crisis brought on by the Maduro regime, and offer TPS recipients who have been in the country for an extended period of time a path to citizenship through legislative immigration reform.”

As well, he has promised to “immediately reverse the Trump administration’s cruel and senseless policies that separate parents from their children at our border, including ending the prosecution of parents for minor immigration violations as an intimidation tactic, and prioritizing the reunification of any children still separated from their families.”

 

Race Issues

Due to the unrest and calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd last summer, Biden vowed on the campaign trail to create “a national police oversight commission” in his first 100 days in office. In the “Biden Plan for Black America,” he said he would call on Congress to “immediately enact Sen. Kamala Harris’ bill to create a task force to address the racial disparities that have been laid bare by this pandemic.” And one of the executive actions Biden signed today directs federal agencies “to review their actions to ensure racial equity.” 

Biden has named criminal-justice reform as a “priority” of his administration in working toward racial equity. His plan on the issue calls for “immediate passage of Congressman Bobby Scott’s SAFE Justice Act, an evidence-based, comprehensive bill to reform our criminal-justice system ‘from front-end sentencing reform to back-end release policies.’” That bill attempts to concentrate prison space on violent and career criminals by focusing mandatory minimum sentences on leaders and supervisors of drug-trafficking organizations and “creating release valves for lower-risk geriatric and terminally-ill offenders.” It would also increase “funding for community-based policing and public-safety initiatives.”

 

Abortion and Transgender Agendas

On the abortion issue, Biden has promised to quickly rescind President Trump’s expanded Mexico City Policy, which barred taxpayer funding for abortion overseas. He has also vowed to end Trump’s partial domestic defunding of Planned Parenthood accomplished by barring abortion providers from Title X family-planning funds.

Another action that Biden will take soon is to fulfill his promise to reinstate an Obama-era rule, rescinded by President Trump in 2017, specifying “that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers that refer for abortions or provide related information.” The rule barred any recipient of Title X funding from excluding potential funding recipients, notably including abortion providers, “for reasons other than its ability to provide Title X services.”

An action that Biden named as a “top legislative priority” in his first 100 days as president was the passage of the Equality Act, legislation that would not only expand the protected classes in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” but would also eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which currently bars taxpayer funding of abortion, and prevent states from passing pro-life legislation. 

On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order to prevent “workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” He also plansto “direct the U.S. Department of Defense to allow transgender service members to serve openly, receive needed medical treatment, and be free from discrimination” in the first days of his administration. 

His plan on the issue also said that, “on his first day in office, Biden will reinstate the Obama-Biden guidance revoked by the Trump-Pence administration, which will restore transgender students’ access to sports, bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity. He will direct his Department of Education to vigorously enforce and investigate violations of transgender students’ civil rights.”

While none of today’s other executive actions centered on abortion or transgender rights, further action in these areas via executive action is certain to follow soon. The Associated Press reported on Jan. 16 that Biden plans “a 10-day blitz of executive actions as Biden seeks to act swiftly to redirect the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency without waiting for Congress.”

“In the coming days and weeks we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the President-elect’s promises to the American people,” incoming White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. She also advised that two priority items will be revoking the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits federal funding of groups that provide or promote abortion overseas, and revoking the ban on military service by persons who identify as transgender.

 

Environment

One of Biden’s Day One executive actions was to cancel the construction of the XL Keystone Pipeline and have agencies review and reverse more than 100 actions taken by the Trump administration on the environment.

Biden also took immediate actions on the issue of climate change beginning on the first day of his presidency. Another Day One executive order rejoins the U.S to the Paris Climate Accord, a decision that will take effect in 30 days. According to his “Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice,” he plans to “sign a series of new executive orders with unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama-Biden administration platform and put us on the right track.” He also pledges to “demand that Congress enacts legislation in the first year of his presidency that: 1) establishes an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025; 2) makes a historic investment in clean energy and climate research and innovation; 3) incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change.”

His environmental plan also includes convening “a climate world summit to directly engage the leaders of the major carbon-emitting nations of the world to persuade them to join the United States in making more ambitious national pledges, above and beyond the commitments they have already made.”

Carrie Gress

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