Biden Targets Policies on Climate,Virus01/21 06:16
President Joe Biden is moving swiftly to dismantle Donald Trump's legacy on
his first day in office, signing a series of executive actions that reverse
course on immigration, climate change, racial equity and the handling of the
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden is moving swiftly to dismantle Donald
Trump's legacy on his first day in office, signing a series of executive
actions that reverse course on immigration, climate change, racial equity and
the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new president signed the orders just hours after taking the oath of
office at the Capitol, pivoting quickly from his pared-down inauguration
ceremony to enacting his agenda. With the stroke of a pen, Biden ordered a halt
to the construction of Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall, ended the ban on travel
from some Muslim-majority countries, declared his intent to rejoin the Paris
Climate Accord and the World Health Organization and revoked the approval of
the Keystone XL oil pipeline, aides said.
The 15 executive actions, and two directives, amount to an attempt to rewind
the last four years of federal policies with striking speed. Only two recent
presidents signed executive actions on their first day in office --- and each
signed just one. But Biden, facing the debilitating coronavirus pandemic, a
damaged economy and a riven electorate, is intent on demonstrating a sense of
urgency and competence that he argues has been missing under his Republican
"There's no time to start like today," Biden said in his first comments to
reporters as president.
Biden wore a mask as he signed the orders in the Oval Office --- a marked
departure from Trump, who rarely wore a face covering in public and never
during events in the Oval Office. But virus precautions are now required in the
building. Among the executive actions signed Wednesday was one requiring masks
and physical distancing on federal property and by federal employees. Biden's
order also extended the federal eviction freeze to aid those struggling from
the pandemic economic fallout, created a new federal office to coordinate a
national response to the virus and restored the White House's National Security
Council directorate for global health security and defense, an office his
predecessor had closed.
The actions reflected the new president's top policy priority --- getting a
handle on a debilitating pandemic. In his inaugural address, Biden paused for
what he called his first act as president --- a moment of a silent prayer for
the victims of the nation's worst public health crisis in more than a century.
He declared that he would "press forward with speed and urgency" in coming
weeks. "For we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant
possibilities --- much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build
and much to gain," he said in the speech.
But Biden's blitz of executive actions went beyond the pandemic. He targeted
Trump's environmental record, calling for a review of all regulations and
executive actions that are deemed damaging to the environment or public health,
aides said Tuesday as they previewed the moves.
Another order instructs federal agencies to prioritize racial equity and
review policies that reinforce systemic racism. Biden revoked two Trump orders
related to the 2020 census. The first attempted to discern the citizenship
status of every U.S. resident, and the second sought to exclude people in the
U.S. illegally from the numbers used for apportioning congressional seats among
He also ordered federal employees to take an ethics pledge that commits them
to upholding the independence of the Justice Department.
The president also revoked the just-issued report of Trump's "1776
Commission" that promotes "patriotic education."
Those moves and others will be followed by dozens more in the next 10 days,
the president's aides said, as Biden looks to redirect the country without
having to go through a Senate that Democrats control by the narrowest margin
and will soon turn to the impeachment trial of Trump, who is charged by the
House with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol.
Republicans signaled that Biden will face fierce opposition on some parts of
One of his orders seeks to fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals, known as DACA, a signature effort of the Obama administration that
provided hundreds of thousands of young immigrants protection from deportation
and a pathway to citizenship. That's part of a broader immigration plan Biden
sent to Congress on Wednesday that would provide an eight-year path to
citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal
The plan would lead to "a permanent cycle of illegal immigration and amnesty
that would hurt hard-working Americans and the millions of legal immigrants
working their way through the legal immigration process," said Chris Hartline,
a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Even that familiar criticism seemed a return to the normalcy Biden has
promised after years of disruptive and overheated politics. Hewing to
tradition, Biden started his day by attending church with both Democratic and
Republican leaders of Congress. His press secretary, Jen Psaki, held a briefing
for reporters, a practice the Trump White House had all but abandoned in the
final two months of the presidency. Psaki said she intended to restore regular
briefings as part of the White House's commitment to transparency.
"I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our
democracy and for the role all of you play," she said.
Biden took other steps to try to signal his priorities and set the tone in
his White House. As he swore in dozens of political appointees in a virtual
ceremony, he declared he expected "honesty and decency" from all that worked
for his administration and would fire anyone who shows disrespect to others "on
"Everyone is entitled to human decency and dignity," Biden said. "That's
been missing in a big way for the last four years."