The First Week of The Biden - Harris Administration
February 1, Parik Ravi
President Biden comes into office facing more crises than any president since FDR. A reeling economy, a pandemic out of control, and social unrest at the highest levels since 1968. Today we will look at Joe Biden’s first full week in office and the actions that he has taken thus far.
Joe Biden has signed more executive orders in his first week than any president in history. He has acted on issues such as racial inequality and climate change. Most importantly, he has rejoined the Paris Climate Accord. He has also allowed transgender individuals to join the military. Another executive order he has taken was to halt border wall construction and to stop construction on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Many of Biden’s executive orders are largely symbolic. They direct federal agencies to research a certain policy position or to look into certain objectives the Biden administration has. One example is the “Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking.” This executive order essentially tells federal agencies that they should make decisions based on science and evidence. The executive order itself does not really do anything; it just shows one of Biden’s goals during his administration.
Another significant change so far are the President’s press briefings. Press briefings during the Trump administration were infrequent and often lacked any substantive information. The press briefings under Biden have occurred daily and while they are still press briefings in the sense that they are always spun to make the administration look best, Press Secretary Jen Psaki often provides substantive and concrete policy positions that the Biden administration will take and updates the press on various objectives the Biden administration has.
Biden’s two primary goals right now are vaccine distribution and a coronavirus relief bill. On the vaccine front, President Biden has stated his goal is to distribute 100 million shots in the first 100 days. This would mean 50 million Americans vaccinated since the vaccines require two doses to be effective. The president has faced criticism that the goal is not ambitious enough, as the US is currently vaccinating over 1 million people a day. Some press outlets have criticized Biden for setting an easy target that will make him look good; however, the administration claims that after the initial supply of vaccines is exhausted, it will be difficult to continue the rate of 1 million per day. Time will tell which side ends up being correct but chances are that President Biden has set a goal he knows he can hit so that when they exceed that goal, he can paint it as a “win” for the administration. What is true is if the US only vaccinates 1 million people per day, it will take almost 18 months for us to achieve herd immunity, keeping in mind that everyone needs two shots. President Biden has said he believes the US will reach herd immunity in the late summer or early fall, which indicates a rate of closer to 3 million shots per day. His goal is to have the vaccine widely available to all Americans by the summer and he recently announced that he plans to purchase 200 million additional doses of vaccine.
The second priority the Biden administration has is a coronavirus relief bill. The promise of this bill was essentially how the Democrats took control of the senate in Georgia. Biden promised that Democrats would send out an additional $2,000 in relief for Americans struggling during coronavirus. The administration's reasoning that this does not just go to people that are unemployed is that many employed Americans have faced additional expenses, either due to their own hospitalization from Covid or a family member’s. Facing criticism, Biden has argued that the effects of not going big enough on a Covid relief bill are far greater than the effects of spending too much money. While Biden initially wanted to pass the bill in a bipartisan fashion, even moderate Republicans are opposed to any sort of Covid relief spending, arguing that the funds from December’s Covid relief package have not been fully distributed and that the Federal Debt is growing too large. As time passes on, it looks more and more likely that Democrats will use budget reconciliation to pass the bill, meaning they would only need 50 votes instead of the typical 60 needed.
Once the Covid relief bill gets put up for a vote, we will cover it more in depth and follow the path that the bill takes through Congress. The most likely path is that it will be passed by the end of February through budget reconciliation on a party line vote.