In his first few hours as the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, on Wednesday, 20 January, signed a flurry of executive orders, moving swiftly to dismantle former President Donald Trump’s legacy.
Apart from sending a notice to the United Nations, stating that the US will re-enter the Paris climate accord, Biden signed 16 other executive orders, presidential memoranda and agency directives on a variety of issues, including an order requiring masks on federal property and another meant to ensure racial equality, CNN reported.
15 of the 17 executive actions Biden signed will be executive orders, reported The Guardian.
One of Biden’s first actions was to halt the funding for the border wall, reversing Trump’s travel ban targeting largely Muslim nations and several decisions on the pandemic response and the environment.
According to CNN, nine of the 17 actions were aimed at reversing a policy of the Trump administration, and according to top Biden officials, these are only a small part of the new president’s moves to undo the former President’s policies and implement Biden’s campaign promises.
“I thought there’s no time to wait. Get to work immediately,” he reportedly said, adding, “I think some of the things we’re going to be doing are bold and vital, and there’s no time to start like today.”
Further, Biden said that Trump had written a “very generous letter” to him but refused to discuss its contents till he had spoken to the latter about it.
On COVID-19 Response
Pertaining to the pandemic response, Biden signed an executive order to start a "100 Days Masking Challenge," which calls for a nationwide face mask and social distancing mandate in federal property and by federal employees and contractors.
Apart from this, Biden also signed an executive order appointing Jeffrey D Zients as the official COVID-19 response coordinator, part of the president’s attempt to improve America’s response to the pandemic.
Biden also moved towards rejoining the World Health Organization after the Trump administration withdrew from the organisation and cut off funding for the body.
On Environment and Climate Change
As stated before, Biden sent a notice to the United Nations stating that the US will re-enter the Paris climate accord. The landmark international agreement was signed in 2015 to limit global warming, and this move is indicative of Biden's urgency to address climate change and global warming. Following a 30-day notice period, the US will rejoin the international effort curb threatening the heating of the planet.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, to whom the papers to rejoin the Paris Agreement were sent, welcomed Biden’s efforts. He said: “We look forward to the leadership of the United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero.”
According to The New York Times, Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline; reversed rollbacks of vehicle emissions standards as well as decisions to allow land development at several national monuments. He also revoked oil and gas development at national wildlife monuments, and signed another order re-establishing a federal team to deal with greenhouse gasses.
In an order, Biden has strengthened the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme that protects immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation.
Further, Biden revoked the Trump administration’s plan to exclude non-citizens from the census, while two other orders overturned a Trump effort to find and deport unauthorised immigrants and blocked the deportation of Liberians residing in the US.
According to CBS News, Biden also ended the travel ban imposed by the Trump administration in which the US in 2017 restricted travel and immigration from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, and later added Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, and Tanzania in 2020.
He also put an end to the construction of the border wall by ending the national emergency declaration cited by Trump’s administration to allow flow of funds for the same.
On Racial Equality & LGBTQ Rights
According to The New York Times, Biden will stop the Trump administration’s “harmful” 1776 Commission.
He has also worked towards strengthening workplace discrimination protections based on sexual orientation as well as gender identity, as well as expanding federal protections against sex discrimination to include LGBTQ people.
On Economy and Government
According to reports, Biden is aiming to extend a federal moratorium on evictions as well as continue a temporary stay on federal student loan interest and principal payments till the end of September.
Lastly, Biden has ordered every executive branch appointee of his government to sign an ethics pledge which requires them “to uphold the independence of the Department of Justice”.
The newly sworn in president has also ordered a freeze on all last-minute regulations pushed through by the Trump administration to permit him the time to review the same. According to CBS News, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain will be in charge of doing this, while a memo from the President will formally state that the regulations have been frozen.
(With inputs from CBS News, The New York Times and The Guardian.)