On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued 17 executive orders, memorandums, and requests, nine of which directly reverse Donald Trump’s policies — a head start that sets off an aggressive push to undo many of the more destructive policies from the past four years in the coming days and weeks.
The day-one rush pertains to various topics, including the coronavirus and the economy — twin crises that the new administration will immediately prioritize — and immigration, another core policy goal. Wednesday’s executive actions are among dozens that Biden is expected to issue in the next ten days, a blitz of unilateral authority that advisers reportedly hope will thrust Biden’s agenda into motion as the new administration takes shape. Below, a breakdown of the directives signed on Biden’s first day.
Biden issued three executive orders relating to the coronavirus, starting with a nationwide mask and physical-distancing mandate on all federal grounds. The president also created the position of a coronavirus-response coordinator to oversee his administration’s efforts to distribute vaccines and medical supplies, a role Biden has tapped Jeff Zients for. This executive order also revives a global health unit in the National Security Council that Trump had disbanded, according to the New York Times.
Finally, Biden canceled the withdrawal by the U.S. from the World Health Organization, which Trump, despite urgent calls for pandemic cooperation, announced the country would exit last May. The executive order also appoints Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, to head the U.S. delegation to the WHO, CNN reports.
Four of the six directives related to immigration reverse some of Trump’s most contentious policies, including his restrictions on travel from seven Muslim-majority nations. In addition to repealing Trump’s so-called Muslim ban, Biden on Wednesday overhauled the Trump administration’s expansion of immigration enforcement, ceased construction of the border wall by ending the national emergency Trump declared to fund it, and nullified Trump’s directive to exclude noncitizens from the Census count.
Further, Biden issued a memorandum calling on the Department of Homeland Security to “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children, according to the Washington Post. He also issued an executive order requiring the Department of Homeland Security to suspend deportations for “certain noncitizens ordered deported” for the next 100 days.
Separately, Biden rolled out his immigration plans in an ambitious bill introduced to Congress on Wednesday, which, among other provisions, proposes an eight-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status.
Biden issued two executive actions pertaining to the pandemic economy: One extends the current nationwide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures at least through March, and the other prolongs a pause on federal student-loan interest and principal payments at least through September, CNN reports.
Biden began to undo the Trump administration’s unprecedented assault on environmental protections in an executive action rejoining the Paris climate accord, which will take 30 days to go into effect. In another executive action, Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline by revoking the permit, issued by the Trump administration, that allowed for its construction. Both executive actions are part of Biden’s ambitious pledge to address the existential climate crisis that Trump spent much of his term denying.
Equity, Ethics, and Regulation
On racial equity, Biden rescinded the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, the 18-member group, devoid of professional historians, that Trump created by executive order last September “to support patriotic education.” On Martin Luther King Day, the 1776 Commission released a report that drew intense scrutiny from historians, who criticized it for, among other things, distorting the history of slavery in America. Biden’s executive action also calls on every federal agency to review equity in their programs and actions, CBS News reports. Biden also addressed equity in an executive action preventing workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Another directive calls on the Office of Management and Budget “to develop recommendations to modernize regulatory review and undoes Trump’s regulatory approval process,” according to CNN. Biden also issued an executive order requiring appointees in his executive branch to sign an ethics pledge, which also requires federal employees to vow “to uphold the independence of the Department of Justice,” according to an outline of the executive order, per CBS News.