WASHINGTON (AP) — In his first hours as president, Joe Biden will aim to strike at the heart of President Donald Trump’s policy legacy, signing a series of executive actions that reverse his predecessor’s orders on immigration, climate change, and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden on Wednesday (Jan. 20) will end construction on Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall, end the ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries, rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization, and revoke the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, aides said Tuesday. The new president will sign 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 15 executive actions are an attempt to essentially rewind the last four years of federal policies with striking speed. Only two recent presidents signed executive actions on their first day in office — and each signed just one. But Biden, facing the debilitating coronavirus pandemic, is intent on demonstrating a sense of urgency and competence that he argues has been missing under his predecessor.
Biden started the day by signaling he would seek a return to the Washington traditions and normalcy his predecessor upended. As Trump, who declined to attend Biden’s inauguration, departed from Washington Wednesday morning, Biden and his family made their way to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, the historic church where John F. Kennedy’s funeral mass was held. The president-elect was joined by Democratic and Republican congressional leaders for the service, a nod to the bipartisanship he hopes to inspire in the fight against the pandemic.
Biden’s first actions reach well beyond the current health crisis. He intends to order a review of all Trump 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 margin.
Notably, the opening actions did not include immediate steps to rejoin the Iran nuclear accord, which Trump abandoned and 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 the actions to be taken Wednesday were focused on providing “immediate relief” to Americans.
In another effort to signal a return to pre-Trump times, Psaki said she would hold a news briefing late Wednesday in a symbol of the administration’s commitment to transparency. Trump’s White House had all but abandoned the practice of briefing reporters daily.