U.S. President-elect Joe Biden plans an early blitz of executive action to reverse some of President Donald Trump’s most contentious policies and address the coronavirus pandemic, according to an outline of Biden’s first 10 days in office.
The plan, spelled out in a memo Saturday by Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain to incoming White House advisers, will address what Klain called “four overlapping and compounding crises.”
“In his first 10 days in office, President-elect Biden will take decisive action to address these four crises, prevent other urgent and irreversible harms, and restore America’s place in the world,” Klain wrote. “President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward.”
They are the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed close to 400,000 U.S. lives, the resulting economic downturn, climate change and a national reckoning over racial equality in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Klain said Biden would begin with about a dozen executive actions on Wednesday, Inauguration Day, a federal holiday usually devoted more to ceremonies and celebrations than the actual work of the presidency. But Biden’s inaugural has been greatly scaled down because of the coronavirus outbreak and security concerns.
First-day directives will focus on measures to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, including an extension of student loan forbearance past Jan. 31 and an extension of a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, according to Klain. Biden will also launch a “100 Day Masking Challenge,” imposing new mandates that require masks on federal property and for interstate transportation.
Typically, “Day One” is more a rhetorical concept for any new administration, with actions often rolled out over days, weeks or longer. But during the campaign and since his election, Biden has repeatedly promised action “on Day One,” creating what would be an overwhelming priority list.
Klain’s memo is the transition team’s first effort to temper those expectations with an ambitious but achievable to-do list. Biden will spread out some orders over the first 10 days “in order to highlight the actions the president-elect is taking,” Klain said.
“Clearly, this is for public consumption,” said Andrew Rudalevige, a Bowdoin College professor and expert on executive orders. He said Biden was probably eager to demonstrate a more organized White House after Trump’s turbulent governing style, and to reassure key Democratic constituency groups that action on their priorities is coming, even if it’s not on day one.
Other orders are waiting on a legal clearance process — a step Trump often skipped in his first days, leading to confusion and legal challenges that sometimes required him to correct his own orders. Klain emphasized that Biden’s orders will restore “an appropriate, constitutional role for the President.”
The 10-day plan also includes presidential directives on safely re-opening schools and businesses, and pandemic-related economic relief measures planned for Jan 21. and Jan. 22.
The week after his inauguration, Biden will take additional action on “Buy American” provisions in federal purchasing and on criminal justice, climate, science and health care matters, Klain said. He’ll overturn Trump’s border enforcement policies and set up a process to reunite migrant children the Trump administration separated from caregivers after they crossed into the U.S.
The executive actions will take the form of executive orders, presidential memoranda, and directives to Cabinet agencies. The New York Times reported earlier on Klain’s memo.
The Klain memo also made clear that Biden’s agenda would require “robust congressional action.” Biden will propose at least one significant piece of legislation on his first day: an immigration overhaul to create a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
Other top legislative priorities include Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 and economic recovery package, and bills on voting rights, the minimum wage and violence against women, Klain said.