BIDEN’S INAUGURATION BRINGS HOPE – AND MORE CHALLENGES AHEAD

President-elect Joe Biden. Courtesy of Flickr.

Two weeks ago, Americans watched unprecedented scenes of violence in Washington, D.C., as Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to protest President-elect Joe Biden’s election certification. As the country is still figuring out how to heal from the recent mob, the Capitol will be at the center of politics once again for Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. 

President-elect Biden will become the 46th president of the United States at a somber moment in American history. Biden will take over a country overwhelmed by four “compounding” crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis, climate change, and a nationwide movement fighting for racial equity and justice. 

For more than a year and a half, Joe Biden had promised to overturn many of Donald Trump’s most controversial policies as early as on “Day One.” The day has now come. 

On Jan. 16, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, shared a memo laying out the executive orders the new president will issue on his first day in office. The theme of Biden’s inauguration will be “America United,” BBC reported, as the new president will focus on healing the country’s political divisions. While Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend the inauguration, Trump has said he will not.

The more than 20,000 National Guard troops securing the streets of Washington indicate that the city is prepared for potential violence overshadowing the inauguration.

Still, Biden is determined to start his presidency by marking a clear cut from the Trump administration. On Jan. 20, he will enact around a dozen executive actions that will tackle the four crises the country is facing, in a hope to make “government function for the people,” Klain wrote.

Biden’s first stop in Washington will be at the memorial for the 400,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 at the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool on the National Mall. This will mark one of the first remembrances for those who have died during the pandemic. 

To tackle the record-numbers of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., Biden will issue a “100 Day Masking Challenge” to urge Americans to commit to wearing masks for 100 days to slow the spread of the virus, imposing new mandates that will require masks on federal property and for interstate transportation.

To provide economic relief from the strain caused by the pandemic, Biden will issue several orders including pushing for a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief legislative package. The package will contain three targets: 

  • $400 billion for arresting the spread of COVID-19 and increasing vaccine capabilities.
  • Over $1 trillion to assist families needing direct financial support.
  • $440 billion in emergency funds for cash-poor small businesses and communities.

The new president will also extend nationwide restrictions on home evictions and foreclosures to help more than 25 million Americans who live on the edge every month. He will also ask the Department of Education to continue to pause student loan payments and interests for millions of Americans with federal student loans.

While the first day in office for any new administration is typically more a rhetorical concept, with actions often rolled out over days, weeks or even longer, Biden is expected to use his first day as an opportunity to quickly overturn some of Trump’s most controversial policies.

Biden plans to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, which Trump left in June 2017, and end the so-called 2017 “Muslim ban” which restricted travel and immigration to the U.S. from countries including Syria, Iran, Iraq, and more recently Nigeria or Tanzania. 

“President-elect Biden will take action – not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration – but also to start moving our country forward,” Klain wrote. 

On the days following his inauguration, Biden will sign a number of executive actions to move aggressively to change the course of the COVID-19 crisis and safely re-open schools and businesses. The president-elect will direct his Cabinet agencies to take immediate action to deliver economic relief to working families bearing the brunt of this crisis.

Between Jan. 15 and Feb. 1, Biden will sign “Buy American” provisions so “the future of America is made in America,” Klain wrote. 

He will also sign executive actions on criminal justice reforms, climate change, immigration and access to health care.

But the full achievement of the Biden-Harris administration’s policy objectives requires not just the executive actions Biden vowed to take, but also robust Congressional action. This could potentially prove to be difficult, even with the slight majority held by Democrats, CBS news reported. 

And this year, the Senate will have a lot on its hands. On top of dealing with the Biden administration business, Democrats and Republicans are reportedly discussing plans for a “dual track” agenda which could allow the Senate to split its time with impeachment proceedings of Donald Trump. 

While some unexpected challenges might affect Biden’s ambitious timeline, Klain concluded his memo with a promise.

 “By Feb. 1, America will be moving in the right direction on all four of these challenges – and more,” he wrote.

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