President Joe Biden went to work hours after being inaugurated, signing a flurry of executive orders to reverse some of Trump’s most controversial policies.
“I thought with the state of the nation today, there’s no time to waste. Let’s get to work immediately,” Biden told reporters Wednesday, next to a tall stack of executive orders ready to be signed. “I’m going to start today on the compounding COVID-19 crisis along with the economic crisis following that, the climate crisis, and racial equity issues.”
Biden also acknowledged the limitations of the executive branch and the fact that he will need bipartisan cooperation to get more substantial agendas completed. “I’m going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people. Long way to go,” Biden said. “These are just executive actions. They are important, but we’re going to need legislative actions to do a lot of things we want to do.”
The first order Biden signed was an executive action to mandate masks and social distancing on all federal property and by all federal employees. While the idea of a national mask mandate has been publicly called for by experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease specialist, it is thought that the order would most likely face legal challenges. The administration has also begun the “100 days masking challenge,” which asks all Americans to wear masks and urges state and local governments to implement similar measures.
Biden also signed an order that strengthened the DACA program, which protects those who were brought to the US as children from being deported. The executive order also asks Congress to create a permanent path to citizenship for them. The administration also reversed the travel ban implemented by Trump in 13 countries with predominately African or Muslim populations. The order also directs the State Department to begin processing visas and helping those negatively impacted by the ban. Some advocates have been vocal about the fact that much more action will be needed in order to reverse the damage done to impacted families during the Trump years.
Climate was also on the agenda for the first day, and Biden signed multiple orders to reverse the environmentally detrimental policies put in place by his predecessor. One of the first orders signed was to begin putting the US back into the Paris Climate Agreement. Another revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, an access pipeline that has been extremely controversial due to the threat of toxic chemical leaks affecting wildlife inhabitants and water sources. The pipeline was initially blocked from being constructed in an order from President Obama, but it later proceeded under an order signed by President Trump. The orders also reversed the rollbacks of emission standards and temporarily put a moratorium on oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In regard to the former president’s other policies, Biden has placed a freeze on all of Trump’s new regulations in order to give the new administration time to analyze them and decide how they want to proceed.