The first week in office often sets the tone for the next four years of presidency; what will the U.S. under President Biden look like? Politifact documented 100 promises Biden made on the campaign trail, and in his first seven days, the President has already signed at least 100 executive actions.
High on his priority list: a comprehensive COVID-19 response.
From enacting a mandate on mask-wearing on all federal property as well as on all forms of public transport to creating a COVID-19 response coordinator, Biden’s coronavirus response has taken center-stage of all of the executive orders he has signed. He spent his second day in office focusing on the pandemic response, with nine executive orders. Most notably, he focused on creating a health equity task force to double down on socioeconomic and racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes. This demonstrated his commitment to improving the quality of life of citizens in marginalized groups.
Moreover, Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement. He is tackling the climate crisis by pausing oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Also, Biden is directing federal agencies to consider the environmental ramifications of their international plans. Notably, he canceled the Keystone XL permit, a proposed pipeline of 1,200 miles, which would have drastic effects on wildlife, destroy ecosystems and pollute rivers.
To curb air pollution, the President set a target for emission reductions. Finally, he created the Environmental Justice Council to reduce health, economic and climate impacts that disproportionately affect marginalized communities. It is nice to see the President creating intersectional policies since the climate crisis impacts citizens’ health, particularly those already in vulnerable communities. This is the kind of policymaking that shows his dedication to Americans’ best interests.
Beyond those two issues, Biden’s work towards racial inequities can be observed in his cabinet picks. He’s previously said that he wants his cabinet to represent as many United States population demographics as possible. The POTUS chose General Lloyd Austin to lead the Pentagon, Janet Yellen (former chairwoman of the Fed.) to be Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and Debra Haaland as Interior Secretary. They are the first Black man, first woman and first Native American woman to hold their respective roles. Furthermore, he ordered all agencies’ equity assessments and reallocated resources to decrease poverty and serve marginalized communities.
Biden must also address healthcare and economic disparities to benefit vulnerable groups further. In its first week, the new administration labeled Feb. 15 to May 15 as a special enrollment period for uninsured Americans to sign up for health insurance during the pandemic. He also ordered his administration to re-examine policies that made it more difficult for people with pre-existing conditions and those who couldn’t afford Medicaid to get coverage. Biden called for a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP), increased welfare benefits and improved the effective delivery of these government benefits despite the pandemic.
The new administration also ended Trump’s entry ban from majority-Muslim countries and ensured that undocumented immigrants would be counted in the 2020 census. Additionally, he pulled funds from the border wall, strengthened DACA and blocked the deportation of Liberian refugees. On the campaign trail, Biden promised immigration reform and proposed a bill to tackle this issue. To gain bipartisan support, he is open to splitting the bill into multiple parts.
This doesn’t even begin to cover all of his actions, such as terminating contracts with private prisons, federal funding towards women’s health clinics and protecting the LGBTQ+ community.
Biden’s first week in office signals a significant change from the past four years; however, this is just seven days. We must continue to monitor his actions and hold him accountable, as ultimately, the President of the United States should work for the people.
I won’t lie; I’m very excited to see what happens, but I’m still skeptical of whether he will be able to fulfill all of his promises.