WASHINGTON, Jan 20, (AP): Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, declaring that “democracy has prevailed” as he took the helm of a deeply divided nation and inherited a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.
Biden’s inauguration came at a time of national tumult and uncertainty, a ceremony of resilience as the hallowed American democratic rite unfurled at a U.S. Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago. The chilly Washington morning was dotted with snow flurries, but the sun emerged just before Biden took the oath of office, the quadrennial ceremony persevering even though it was encircled by security forces evocative of a war zone and devoid of crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic. “The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” Biden said.
“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day in history and hope, of renewal and resolve.” And then he pivoted to challenges ahead, acknowledging the surging virus that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the United States. Biden looked out over a capital city dotted with empty storefronts that attest to the pandemic’s deep economic toll and where summer protests laid bare the nation’s renewed reckoning on racial injustice.
“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,” Biden said. “Few people in our nation’s history have more challenged, or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.” His predecessor’s absence underscored the healing that is needed. Flouting tradition, Donald Trump departed Washington on Wednesday morning ahead of the inauguration rather than accompany his successor to the Capitol.
Though three other former presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – gathered to watch the ceremonial transfer of power, Trump, awaiting his second impeachment trial, instead flew to Florida after stoking grievance among his supporters with the lie that Biden’s win was illegitimate. Joe Biden has given himself an imposing to-do list for his earliest days as president and many promises to keep over the longer haul. Overshadowing everything at the very start is Biden’s effort to win congressional approval of a $1.9 trillion plan to combat the coronavirus and the economic misery it has caused. But climate change, immigration, health care and more will be competing for attention – and dollars. Altogether Biden has laid out an ambitious if not always detailed set of plans and promises across the range of public policy. Drawn from a review of his campaign statements and a recent memo from Ron Klain, who’ll be his chief of staff, here’s a sampling of measures to expect right away, around the corner and beyond:
Wednesday, after the inauguration, mostly by executive action:
■ Declaration that the US is rejoining Paris climate accord.
■ Declaration that the US is rejoining World Health Organization.
■ Ethical standards for his administration and an order prohibiting interference in the operations of the Justice Department from other parts of government.
■ Start of a process to restore 100 public health and environmental rules that the Obama administration created and President Donald Trump eliminated or weakened.
■ Start of a process to rejoin the deal restraining Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
■ Executive action to end travel restrictions on people from a variety of Muslim-majority countries.
■ Executive action to protect from deportation people who came to the country illegally as children.
■ Executive action to make masks mandatory on federal property and when travelling out of state. Others will be asked to wear masks for 100 days.
■ Steps to extend pandemic-era restrictions on evictions and foreclosures.
■ Legislation to go to Congress proposing to repeal liability protections for gun manufacturers and tightening some other aspects of gun control.
■ Immigration legislation to go to Congress as part of an effort to offer a path to citizenship for 11 million people in the US illegally and to codify protections for people who came illegally as children.
■ Education Department to be asked to extend the existing pause on student loan payments and interest for millions with student debt. Thursday
■ Executive action laying out new steps to expand virus testing, protect workers and set new public health standards. Friday
■ Directive to agencies to take unspecified immediate action to deliver economic relief from the pandemic. By Feb 1
■ Executive actions to strengthen “buy American” provisions.
■ Executive actions to address climate change.
■ First steps to expand access to health care, for lowincome women, women of color and other segments of the population.
■ First steps to reunite families still separated at the Mexican border. Beyond (some may be tried sooner)
■ Ensure 100 million vaccines have been given before the end of his first 100 days.
■ Ensure 100 federally supported vaccination centers are up and running in his first month.
■ Expand use of the Defense Production Act to direct the manufacture of critical pandemic supplies.
■ Win passage of a $2 trillion climate package to get the US to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
■ Seek passage of a “Medicare-like public option” to compete alongside private insurance markets for working- age Americans; increase existing premium subsidies.
■ Eliminate certain corporate tax cuts where possible, by executive action, while doubling the levies US firms pay on foreign profits.
■ Make a plan within 100 days to end homelessness.
■ Expand legal immigration slots.
■ Freeze deportations for 100 days, then restore the Obama-era principle of deporting foreigners who are seen as posing a national security threat or who have committed crimes in addition to the crime of illegal entry, thereby pulling back the broad deportation policy of the Trump years.
■ Halt financing of further construction of the wall along the Mexican border.
■ Within 100 days, establish a police oversight commission to combat institutional racism by then.
■ Reinstate federal guidance, issued by Obama and revoked by Trump, to protect transgender students’ access to sports, bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity.
■ Ensure taxes are not raised on anyone making under $400,000.