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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Explained: From climate to masks, Joe Biden’s Day-1 agenda

Joe Biden's Chief of Staff Rob Klain said the administration faces "four overlapping and compounding crises": Covid-19, crisis the resulting economic crisis, climate change, and racial inequity.

Written by Mehr Gill | New Delhi |
Updated: January 19, 2021 7:17:34 am
Joe Biden, US President oath, Joe Biden's agenda, Biden Administration, Trump Administration, world news, Indian express newsUS President-elect Joe Biden (File Photo)

On Wednesday, US President-elect Joe Biden will take oath of office. On its very first day, the Biden-Harris Administration is set to roll out a series of executive orders as part of its agenda for its first 10 days.

In a memo sent to the incoming senior staff at the White House, Biden’s Chief of Staff Rob Klain said the administration faces “four overlapping and compounding crises”: the Covid-19, crisis the resulting economic crisis, climate change, and racial inequity.

Some of the actions on Biden’s agenda will change the direction of policies undertaken by the Trump Administration, such as the ban on immigrants from some Muslim-majority countries and re-joining the Paris climate accord. Subsequent executive orders that are being planned include expanding access to healthcare and reforming the criminal justice system.

So, what is an executive order?

An executive order is a written directive issued by the President. Such orders are not legislation and don’t require the approval of Congress, which also means Congress cannot overturn them. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), Congress may pass legislation that makes it difficult or impossible to carry out an executive order, such as removing funding. However, only the President can overturn an executive order by issuing another one.

According to the ABA, US Presidents have issued nearly 14,000 presidential orders since George Washington took office in 1789. President Donald Trump issued 209 executive orders between 2017 and 2021, and former President Barack Obama issued 291 during his eight-year tenure from 2009-2017.

What are the executive orders being planned by the Biden Administration?

PARIS PACT: Under the Trump Administration, the US left the Paris climate agreement on November 4, 2020, and Biden said the same day that the US would re-join it in 77 days under his administration. To do so, the US will have to inform the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Thirty days after applying, the US will become a member of the climate deal again.

IMMIGRATION: In 2017, Trump announced a ban restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. Countries have been added to and removed from this list since; as of now, the travel ban covers 13 countries including Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela, North Korea, Myanmar and Nigeria. Trump’s 2017 executive order said the ban was being imposed to prevent the entry of “a national of one of these countries who intends to commit terrorist acts…”

Biden has called this ban unconstitutional and plans to repeal it on Wednesday. According to Bloomberg, since the ban was imposed by a presidential proclamation, Biden will be able to rescind it. However, allowing more refugees requires consultation with Congress every September.

COVID-19: The US is the worst-hit country by Covid-19, with the most cases, the most deaths, and one of the worst death rates. During most part of the pandemic, Trump has been sceptical of the effectiveness of masks in helping curb the spread. Biden, on the other hand, has likened wearing a mask to a “patriotic act”, and has said that on the day he is sworn in, he will sign an executive order mandating that people wear masks on federal properties and on buses and trains while on interstate travel, as part of a “100 Day Masking Challenge”.

Biden has also promised 100 million vaccine shots for Americans within the first 100 days of taking office, and expanding testing.

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STUDENT LOANS: Last November, Trump issued a memorandum extending a student loan payment relief offered in March 2020. Under this, federal student loan payments could be deferred without interest until December 2020. Biden is set to extend the interest-free moratorium.

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