President Biden signed a flurry of executive orders just hours after taking the oath of office on Wednesday, hastening to enact his agenda to address the coronavirus pandemic and to reverse Trump administration policies in areas such as immigration, racial equity and climate change.
Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, also issued a memo to freeze new regulations and review any that the Trump administration tried to finalize in its last days.
Biden’s team reportedly boasted that the 15 executive actions and two directives to agencies far surpassed the number of actions his four predecessors took on their first days in office.
And Biden plans more actions over the next 10 days. “According to guidance shared with Capitol Hill, he plans to issue administrative actions relating to the coronavirus on Thursday and economic relief on Friday,” The Washington Post reported. “A ‘Buy American’ action will come Monday, and an order addressing racial equity issues will follow Tuesday. He will announce actions on climate change on Jan. 27, health care on Jan. 28, immigration on Jan. 29, and international affairs and national security on Feb. 1.”
The combination of executive orders, memoranda, directives and letters Biden signed Wednesday include:
* Launching a “100 Days Masking Challenge,” asking the American public to do “their patriotic duty” by wearing face masks and instituting a mask mandate requiring face coverings and physical distancing on federal property and by federal employees and contractors.
* Creating the position of federal Covid-19 Response Coordinator, reporting directly to the president. To fill the position, Biden has chosen Jeff Zients, a former director of the National Economic Council in the Obama administration who is best known for his role in fixing the HealthCare.gov website after its disastrous rollout.
* Reversing the Trump administration’s move to withdraw from the World Health Organization, which the Biden transition team called “an entity that is critical to coordinating the international response to COVID-19, advancing preparedness for future epidemics and pandemics, and improving the health of all people.”
* Reestablishing the National Security Council’s global health security team, which was disbanded under Trump.
* Asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to extend federal eviction and foreclosure moratoriums until at least March 31 and calling on Congress to provide more assistance to renters.
* Asking the Department of Education to extend the pause on interest and payments for federal student loans until at least September 30.
* Terminating the national emergency declaration Trump used to divert federal funds toward construction of border barriers. Biden’s proclamation pauses wall construction projects “to allow a close review of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used, and to determine the best way to redirect funds that were diverted by the prior Administration to fund wall construction,” his transition team said.
* Repealing the Trump administration’s interior immigration enforcement order that sought to strip federal funds from so-called "sanctuary cities.”