President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly working on a group of executive orders that would reverse several controversial Trump administration guidelines once he takes office on Jan. 20.
Biden plans to take immediate action on climate change, immigration, and public health, according to a Washington Post report. On all three points, the president-elect would effectively implement a policy that contradicts President Donald Trump's contradictions.
While the country continues to grapple with record-breaking daily Covid-19 cases during the pandemic, Biden plans to quickly reverse Trump's withdrawal from the World Health Organization. The order would enable stronger pandemic cooperation and coordination with international partners while reviewing China's influence on the group.
Fighting the pandemic is likely to be the president-elect's top priority, and he's already forming a coronavirus task force led by former surgeon-general Vivek Murthy. David Kessler, former Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Yale University. The group is scheduled to start meeting on Monday.
Biden also plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement immediately and get other countries to cut their emissions. He made a commitment to do so in the campaign and has reaffirmed his commitment to that promise. The expectation of an upcoming order was greeted yesterday by the Mayoress of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who said "Welcome back to America!" in a tweet.
Welcome back to America! Congratulations to @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris on their choice! As we approach the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement, this victory symbolizes our need to work together more than ever in the face of the climate emergency. # Election2020
– Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) November 7, 2020
Regarding immigration, Biden will reportedly lift the travel ban that affects many Muslim countries and reintroduce the "DREAMers" program, which allowed children of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country.
He also plans to reintroduce dozen of environmental and business regulations that were rolled back by Trump and his company. Biden ran on a "return to normal" platform, and normal, apparently, means unraveling the Trump agenda and restoring confidence in American institutions.
Several of Biden's earliest executive actions will similarly fulfill long-standing election promises. Biden has also promised to lift the transgender military ban on the first day of his presidency. LGBTQ activists expect Biden to keep his promise to undo all of Trump's anti-trans policies from the past four years.
During his victory speech last night, many activists noted that Biden made explicit mention of trans people, a first for an elected president during an acceptance speech.
Without the Senate, Biden will have to rely on executive action
Biden's executive orders are likely to take center stage unless the Democrats sweep two Senate runoff elections in Georgia in early January, which will likely determine which party controls the chamber. With Republicans likely to win the standout Senate races in Alaska and North Carolina, Democratic victories in Georgia would give each party 50 senators, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the casting vote.
Even if Democrats have a majority in the upper chamber, their agenda could be stunted by Senator Mitch McConnell, who as the minority leader managed to derail initiatives by the Obama administration. Should McConnell take a similar approach, Biden is unlikely to see much progress on any kind of legislative agenda.
That would likely mean that election promises like lifting the 2017 Trump tax cuts or passing electoral reform or LGBTQ equality law would be off the table for Biden, making executive action the most direct and effective option for Democrats, at least some of their parts to adopt agenda.
Biden previously had an uncooperative Republican party. He has touted his work as vice president to find common ground with Republicans. However, former President Barack Obama was ultimately similarly pushed into government through executive action, a strategy that has often met with overly conservative responses accusing the president of being a dictator.
Trump's executive agenda went a few steps further than Obama's and was not criticized by conservative lawmakers. Trump also avoided the Senate approval process for key administrative officials, instead appointing "acting" heads of agencies that could operate outside of the normal Senate approval process. These Trump actions have also been silenced by his Republican counterparts.
Biden may have to go to the same extreme as Trump in appointing "acting" agency directors if his selection for those positions is rejected by the Senate. The Post reports that some members of his team are considering this – and in a few months it will be clear whether he will actually take this route.
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