Biden signs 17 executive actions on first day after inauguration

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed more than a dozen executive actions, some of which reverse decisions made by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
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President Joe Biden is finalizing 17 executive moves just hours after his inauguration Wednesday, moving faster and more aggressively to dismantle his predecessor's legacy than any other modern president. "There's no time to start like today," Biden told reporters in the Oval Office as he began signing a stack of orders and memoranda. "I'm going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people," CNN quoted.

Incoming top Biden White House advisers outlined and described the executive actions on a press call Tuesday evening, and Biden aides also promised there would be more to come.

"In the coming days and weeks we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the President-elect's promises to the American people, including revoking the ban on military service by transgender Americans, and reversing the Mexico City policy," incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

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Biden is signing a flurry of executive orders, memorandums, and directives to agencies, his first steps to address the coronavirus pandemic and undo some of former President Donald Trump's signature policies. His first action was to impose a mask mandate on federal property, a break in approach to dealing with the pandemic from Trump, who repeatedly downplayed the virus. Biden also installed a coronavirus response coordinator to oversee the White House's efforts to distribute vaccines and medical supplies, according to Guardian.

Start a "100 Days Masking Challenge," calling for a nationwide face mask and social distancing mandate in federal buildings, on federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors, said CBS.

Restructure federal government coordination to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden White House is bringing back an Obama-era position called the "Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense," which was organized with additional staff within the National Security Council after the 2014 Ebola epidemic. This directorate office was dispersed into other roles during the Trump administration, but Biden and his campaign advisers argued the move decreased the preparedness of the federal government for the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Biden will also formally implement a "response coordinator" who will report to the president on the vaccine, testing, and personal protective equipment production, supply, and distribution. Mr. Biden has appointed Jeff Zients, who has been overseeing Mr. Biden's COVID-19 team for the presidential transition.

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Multilateral forum

Biden also reversed several of Trump's attempts to withdraw from international agreements, beginning the process of rejoining the Paris climate accord and halting the United States' departure from the World Health Organization -- where Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, will lead the US delegation.

Rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO), which the Trump administration was in the process of leaving. Mr. Biden is also looking to re-establish the U.S. as an active leader at the WHO.

Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. The Paris climate negotiations took place under the Obama administration and were led by incoming climate change czar John Kerry when he was secretary of state. This will take 30 days to go into effect.

Financial relief

Extend eviction and foreclosure moratoriums. To do this, Biden will call on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to re-implement and extend the already defunct moratorium until at least March 31. The new president will also call on the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs to extend the foreclosure moratoriums for their federally backed mortgages.

Continue "pause" on student loan payments until September 30. The Biden advisers continue to assert Biden still supports his campaign pledge to cancel $10,000 of student loans, but this will take time as it has to go through Congress.


End Keystone XL pipeline and revoke oil and gas development at national wildlife monuments. To do this, Biden's climate adviser Gina McCarthy explained the Biden administration will discard or redo more than 100 "harmful" presidential proclamations, memoranda or permits signed by the Trump administration that the new administration views as detrimental to the environment.

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Human rights

Actions to advance racial equity through the federal government. Incoming Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice explained President Biden wants every federal agency to review equity in their programs and actions. For example, with this executive action the Office of Management and Budget will analyze if federal money is equitably distributed in communities of color and other places of need, the outline of the executive action said. Rice also said Trump's "harmful" 1776 Commission, the 18-member board he formulated in September, will be stopped.

Count non-citizens in U.S. Census again. This reverses President Trump's order in July 2020 to not count undocumented Americans, which would affect the federal allocation of money and federal representation. Rice on the Wednesday press call said Trump's was an "approach that violates the Constitution and the Census Act and is inconsistent with our nation's history and our commitment to representative democracy."

Strengthen workplace discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At agencies, this broadens the federal protections against sex discrimination to include LGBTQ Americans.

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With the stroke of a pen, Biden has halted funding for the construction of Trump's border wall, reversed his travel ban targeting largely Muslim countries and embraced progressive policies on the environment and diversity that Trump spent four years blocking.

Defend the "Dreamers" program for undocumented young Americans. Mr. Biden, in this executive order, calls on Congress to grant permanent status and a path to citizenship to Dreamers — almost a million undocumented young people who were brought to the country as children and shielded from deportation by President Obama. The Trump administration challenged the law but the Supreme Court upheld it.

End so-called "Muslim travel ban," which in 2017 restricted travel and immigration to the U.S. from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, before adding Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, and Tanzania in 2020. The State Department is also instructed to restart visa applications for these countries.

Change Trump's arrest priorities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This executive order will repeal the changes Mr. Trump made in the first week of his presidency in 2017 to make interior immigration enforcement much stricter. Few specifics were listed in the outline of the executive order, but the incoming Biden White House team stated the Department of Homeland Security, in partnership with other agencies, will "set civil immigration enforcement policies that best protect the American people and are in line with our values and priorities."

Stop border wall construction. Mr. Biden will end the national emergency declaration cited by the Trump administration to divert money to the building of the southern wall.

Keep protections for a group of Liberians in the country. Liberians who have been in the United States for many years will be able to remain longer. Their "deferred enforcement departure" will be extended an additional year, until June 30, 2022. President Trump briefly considered ending this deferment before ultimately extending the program.

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Freezing last-minute Trump administration regulatory actions. Technically, White House chief of staff Ron Klain will be charged with carrying out this out, and a presidential memo will formally state the regulations to be frozen.


Formulate Executive Branch ethics doctrine. Mr. Biden wants every executive branch appointee to sign an ethics pledge. The pledge also demands federal employees promise "to uphold the independence of the Department of Justice," the executive order outline states.

Press secretary Jen Psaki and other top Biden officials had told reporters on the eve of his inauguration that the first-day actions are only part of what will be a series of moves to undo Trump policies and implement Biden's campaign promises in his first weeks in office. He plans to follow Inauguration Day by centering each day of January on a specific theme, according to a draft of a calendar document sent to administration allies and viewed by CNN.

The themes next week will be "Buy American," with a Monday executive order beefing up requirements for government purchases of goods and services from US companies; equity on Tuesday, coupled with a push to eliminate private prisons; climate on Wednesday with an executive order kicking off regulatory actions reestablishing the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and combating climate change; health care on Thursday, a day on which Biden will rescind the so-called Mexico City Policy blocking federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion services; and immigration on Friday, when Biden plans to sign executive orders focused on border processing and refugee policies and establish a family reunification task force.

February will focus on what's identified in the calendar document as "restoring America's place in the world."

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