19 January 2021

Busy in-tray awaits incoming US president Joe Biden

19 January 2021

Joe Biden has given himself an imposing to-do list for his earliest days as president and many promises to keep over the longer haul.

Overshadowing everything at the very start is Mr Biden’s effort to win congressional approval of a 1.9 trillion US dollar plan to combat coronavirus and the economic misery it has caused.

But climate change, immigration, health care and more will be competing for attention — and dollars.

Altogether Mr Biden has laid out an ambitious if not always detailed set of plans and promises across the range of public policy.

Drawn from a review of his campaign statements and a recent memo from Ron Klain, who will be his chief of staff, here is a sampling of measures to expect right away, around the corner and beyond:


— Declaration that the US is rejoining Paris climate accord.

— Declaration that the US is rejoining World Health Organisation.

— Ethical standards for his administration and an order prohibiting interference in the operations of the Justice Department from other parts of government.

— Start of a process to restore 100 public health and environmental rules that Barack Obama’s administration created and President Donald Trump eliminated or weakened.

— Start of a process to rejoin the deal restraining Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

— Executive action to end travel restrictions on people from a variety of Muslim-majority countries.

Legislation on the wearing of masks will be enacted (Mark Lennihan/AP) (AP)

— Executive action to protect from deportation people who came to the country illegally as children.

— Executive action to make masks mandatory on federal property and when travelling out of state. Others will be asked to wear masks for 100 days.

— Steps to extend pandemic-era restrictions on evictions and foreclosures.

— Legislation to go to Congress proposing to repeal liability protections for gun manufacturers and tightening some other aspects of gun control.

— Immigration legislation to go to Congress as part of an effort to offer a path to citizenship for 11 million people in the US illegally and to codify protections for people who came illegally as children.

— Education Department to be asked to extend the existing pause on student loan payments and interest for millions with student debt.


— Executive action laying out new steps to expand virus testing, protect workers and set new public health standards.


— Directive to agencies to take unspecified immediate action to deliver economic relief from the pandemic.

February 1

— Executive actions to strengthen “buy American” provisions.

— Executive actions to address climate change.

The US side of a razor-wire-covered border wall along Mexico east of Nogales, Arizona (Charlie Riedel/AP) (AP)

— First steps to expand access to health care, for low-income women, women of colour and other segments of the population.

— First steps to reunite families still separated at the Mexican border.


— Ensure 100 million vaccines have been given before the end of his first 100 days.

— Ensure 100 federally supported vaccination centres are up and running in his first month.

— Expand use of the Defence Production Act to direct the manufacture of critical pandemic supplies.

— Win passage of a two trillion US dollar climate package to get the US to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

— Seek passage of a “Medicare-like public option” to compete alongside private insurance markets for working-age Americans; increase existing premium subsidies.

— Eliminate certain corporate tax cuts where possible, by executive action, while doubling the levies US firms pay on foreign profits.

— Make a plan within 100 days to end homelessness.

— Expand legal immigration slots.

— Freeze deportations for 100 days, then restore the Obama-era principle of deporting foreigners who are seen as posing a national security threat or who have committed crimes in addition to the crime of illegal entry, thereby pulling back the broad deportation policy of the Trump years.

— Halt financing of further construction of the wall along the Mexican border.

Legislation on trasngender rights will be enacted (Martin Keene/PA) (PA Archive)

— Within 100 days, establish a police oversight commission to combat institutional racism by then.

— Reinstate federal guidance, issued by Mr Obama and revoked by Mr Trump, to protect transgender students’ access to sports, toilets and dressing rooms in accordance with their gender identity.

— Ensure taxes are not raised on anyone making under 400,000 US dollars.

— Restore Obama-era rules on campus sexual misconduct and a policy that aimed to cut federal money to for-profit colleges that left students with heavy debt they cannot pay back.

— Support legislation to make two years of community college free and to make public colleges free for families with incomes below 125,000 US dollars, with no repayment of student loans required for people who make less than 25,000 US dollars a year and, for others, no repayment rate above 5% of discretionary income.

— Support increasing the national minimum wage to 15 US dollars.

— Try to win passage of a plan to spend 700 billion US dollars boosting manufacturing and research and development.

— Establish a commission to study expanding the US Supreme Court.

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