President-elect Biden signs series of executive actions on first day

Politics

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — In his first hours as president, Joe Biden signed a series of executive actions that address challenges ranging from the pandemic to the economy, climate change and immigration to fulfill campaign promises, some of which reverse his predecessor’s decisions.

Biden on Wednesday ended construction on President Donald Trump’s border wall, ended the ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries, rejoined the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization, and revoked the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The new president signed the orders almost immediately after taking the oath of office at the Capitol, pivoting quickly from his pared-down inauguration ceremony to enacting his agenda.

The executive actions — a combination of executive orders, memoranda, directives, and letters — are an attempt “not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration, to start moving our country forward,” according to the statement released by Biden’s transition team.

Only two recent presidents signed executive actions on their first day in office — and each signed just one. But Biden, facing the coronavirus pandemic, is intent on demonstrating a sense of urgency and “deliver immediate relief.”

“I think the most important thing to say is that tomorrow starts a new day,” said Jeff Zients, Biden’s choice to lead a new White House office that will coordinate the federal government’s revamped response to the pandemic.

Biden intends to order a review of all Trump administration regulations and executive actions that are deemed damaging to the environment or public health. He will order federal agencies to prioritize racial equity and review policies that reenforce systemic racism. He will revoke a Trump order that sought to exclude noncitizens from the census, and will order federal employees to take an ethics pledge that commits them to upholding the independence of the Justice Department.

Susan Rice, Biden’s incoming domestic policy adviser, said the new president would also revoke the just-issued report of Trump’s “1776 Commission” to promote “patriotic education.”

These actions will be followed by dozens more in the next 10 days, aides said, as Biden looks to redirect the country without having to go through a Senate that Democrats control by the narrowest of margins.

Notably, the opening actions did not include immediate steps to rejoin the Iran nuclear accord, which Biden has pledged to reimplement. Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, said that while they were not included in Biden’s Day One orders, the new president will in the coming days revoke the Pentagon’s ban on military service by transgender Americans as well as the so-called Mexico City policy, which bans U.S. funding for international organizations that perform or refer women for abortion services.

Psaki said she would hold a news briefing Wednesday in a symbol of the administration’s commitment to transparency.

Biden signed the actions during his first visit to the Oval Office in four years. His senior aides, led by deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed and campaign policy chief Stef Feldman, began plotting out the executive action plans in November, just days after Biden won the presidency and drafting began in December. The final documents were reviewed by career staff at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in recent weeks before Biden’s swearing-in to ensure they would pass legal muster.

Biden’s team began assuming the reins of power even before the Marine Band finished its rendition of “Hail to the Chief” after the new president took the oath of office.

Aides began to enter the White House complex at the stroke of noon — when Biden officially assumed the office — to begin overseeing national security roles. The urgency was hastened by concerns about security around the Inauguration after the U.S. Capitol insurrection.

COVID-19 restrictions, along with tight security surrounding the Inauguration severely curtailed the number of aides in Biden’s West Wing. Aides, one official said, were told to pack snacks to eat in their offices because of pandemic protocols.

The Associated Press contributed to this article: reporting by Zeke Miller.

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