By Elena Moore | NPR
President-elect Joe Biden will take office in January with a lot of promises to keep. He has pledged to enact new policies swiftly that veer the U.S. off President Trump’s current path.
Biden ran a heavily policy-focused campaign, releasing dozens of lengthy and ambitious plans ranging from large-scale economic and environmental initiatives to broad actions on racial justice, education and health care. A significant amount of Biden’s agenda also centers on reversing or updating positions taken by the Trump administration, especially on immigration and foreign policy. Biden heads into office with strategies to address the COVID-19 crisis and the search for a vaccine as well.
The sheer volume of Biden’s plans could make it a challenge to execute them all. On immigration alone, he has proposed more than a dozen initiatives to complete within 100 days of taking office, a feat that could prove difficult to execute.
As the president-elect sorts through which priorities to push first, he’ll need to consider that he is likely to face a divided Congress. Control of the Senate is still up in the air, with two Georgia runoff elections set for January, but Republicans are poised to maintain control. Democrats also have a slimmer majority in the House of Representatives, where the GOP made gains contrary to most party leaders’ and analysts’ predictions.
The political dynamic on Capitol Hill means Biden may have to pull back from some policy proposals that many on the left of his party have been pushing on health care and the environment. He will likely need to focus more immediately on issues that could attract bipartisan support, such as providing COVID-19 relief and improving U.S. infrastructure.
NPR has taken a look through some of Biden’s promises and short-term goals for his presidency, some of which are laid out on a new transition website. Here’s what might be coming:
What Biden says he’ll do on Day 1 or beforehand
COVID-19: Assemble a coronavirus task force during his presidential transition
Days after becoming president-elect, Biden announced a team of advisers that will spearhead his pandemic response once he takes office. The task force will be led by Dr. David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner; former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine.
“The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations,” Biden said in a statement Monday morning.
COVID-19: Push for immediate coronavirus legislation
As part of this initiative, the president-elect has also promised to begin working on a new coronavirus aid package before officially taking office, vowing to coordinate with state governors, mayors and other local politicians.
“I’ll ask the new Congress to put a bill on my desk by the end of January with all the resources to see how both our public health and economic response can be seen through the end,” he said at an event in late October.
Biden’s proposed COVID-19 response plan calls for expanding coronavirus testing resources as well as for increasing the country’s capacity to make personal protective equipment by leveraging the Defense Production Act. He has also backed legislation that would create a separate COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force, which Vice President-elect Kamala Harris proposed in the Senate in the spring.
As part of a COVID-19 relief package, Biden has in the past called for at least $10,000 in student loan debt to be canceled for all Americans.
COVID-19: Release a vaccine distribution plan
Biden has said he’ll start working to install “an effective distribution plan” for a potential COVID-19 vaccine on the first day of his presidency. His plan would spend $25 billion on vaccine production and disbursement, and calls for an eventual vaccine to be free for all Americans.
Biden has expressed skepticism over the Trump administration’s promises to provide a vaccine quickly. Trump has said he will have a vaccine ready for distribution by the end of 2020.
COVID-19: Listen to science by rejoining WHO and keeping Fauci as a close adviser
As president, Biden says he will mend the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization, rejoining the body on his first day in office. Trump pulled out of WHO over the summer.
Biden also said that he plans “immediately” to ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, to stay in his post as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a job he’s had since 1984.
Trump had hinted that if he won the election, he might fire Fauci.
Economy: Reverse Trump’s corporate tax cut
Biden has pledged that on his first day as president he will raise corporate income taxes to 28% — compared with the current 21% rate set by the GOP-led tax cuts of 2017. Also, this promise falls under Biden’s larger proposed tax plan, which stresses that Americans making less than $400,000 would not pay more in taxes.
Environment: Make the U.S. an international leader on climate change
In one of his longest-standing campaign promises, Biden heads into office planning to reenter the U.S. immediately into the landmark Paris climate accord of 2015. Trump’s move to pull the U.S. out of the agreement became official this month after a mandatory one-year waiting period that started when the president formally notified the United Nations.
Racial equity: Extend the Voting Rights Act
Biden has pushed for the passage of laws to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Legislation to do so passed the U.S. House last year but not the Senate. Biden advocated for extending the original 1965 legislation following the death of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.
Immigration: Comprehensive immigration changes
Biden has said that on his first day as president he will produce comprehensive immigration legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship for 11 million migrants living in the U.S. illegally. It would also provide a pathway to citizenship for people commonly known as DREAMers, who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Biden has additionally pledged to make the DACA program permanent on his first day in office, a move that comes after years of Trump administration attempts to rescind the program.
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