WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is moving swiftly to dismantle Donald Trump's legacy on his first day in office, signing a series of executive actions that reverse course on immigration, climate change, racial equity and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new president signed the orders just hours after taking the oath of office at the Capitol, pivoting quickly from his pared-down inauguration ceremony to enacting his agenda. With the stroke of a pen, Biden ordered a halt to the construction of Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall, ended the ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries, and declared his intent to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization, aides said.
The 15 executive actions, and two directives, amount to an attempt to rewind the last four years of federal policies with striking speed. Only two recent presidents signed executive actions on their first day in office — and each signed just one. But Biden, facing the debilitating coronavirus pandemic, a damaged economy and a riven electorate, is intent on demonstrating a sense of urgency and competence that he argues has been missing under his Republican predecessor.
“There's no time to start like today,” Biden said in his first comments to reporters as president.
Biden wore a mask as he signed the orders in the Oval Office – a marked departure from Trump, who rarely wore a face covering in public and never during events in the Oval Office. But virus precautions are now required in the building. Among the executive actions signed was one requiring masks and physical distancing on federal property and by federal employees. Biden's order also extended the federal eviction freeze to aid those struggling from the pandemic economic fallout, created a new federal office to coordinate a national response to the virus and restored the White House's National Security Council directorate for global health security and defense, an office his predecessor had closed.
The actions reflected the new president's top policy priority – getting a handle on a debilitating pandemic.
He declared that he would “press forward with speed and urgency” in coming weeks. “For we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities – much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build and much to gain,” he said in the speech. He also ordered federal employees to take an ethics pledge that commits them to upholding the independence of the Justice Department.
Another order instructs federal agencies to prioritize racial equity and review policies that reinforce systemic racism. Biden revoked two Trump orders related to the 2020 census. The first attempted to discern the citizenship status of every U.S. resident, and the second sought to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the numbers used for apportioning congressional seats among the states.”
Keystone XL halted
Construction on the long disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline halted Wednesday as incoming U.S. President Joe Biden decided to revoke its permit.
The premier of the oil-rich Canadian province of Alberta called it an “insult” and said the federal Canadian government should impose trade sanctions if it is not reversed.
The 1,700-mile pipeline was planned to carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Keystone XL President Richard Prior said over 1,000 jobs, the majority unionized, will be eliminated in the coming weeks.