Hours after his inauguration, President Joe Biden has signed a series of executive orders to keep the US in the WHO, end the entry ban from mostly Muslim-majority countries, bolster environmental protections and strengthen the fight against Covid-19.
US President Joe Biden has signed a series of executive orders to launch his administration, including a decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord and a mask mandate for all federal buildings.
The orders signed on Wednesday included keeping the United States in the World Health Organization, ending the ban on entries from mostly Muslim-majority countries, bolstering environmental protections and strengthening the fight against Covid-19.
Also among the directives was a halt to construction of the wall on the US-Mexico border, and efforts to expand diversity and equality for minority group s in the federal government.
The orders were aimed at reversing decisions by his predecessor Donald Trump and setting a clear policy path for Biden's new administration, just hours after he was sworn in as president.
"Some of things we are going to be doing are going to be bold," he said in the Oval Office.
These actions will be followed by dozens more in the next 10 days, aides said, as Biden looks to redirect the country without having to go through a Senate that Democrats control by the narrowest margin.
After taking the oath of office this afternoon, I got right to work taking action to:— President Biden (@POTUS) January 20, 2021
- Control the pandemic
- Provide economic relief
- Tackle climate change
- Advance racial equity
The new administration of US President Biden will pause some deportations for 100 days in order to ensure "fair and effective immigration enforcement" and focus on US-Mexico border security and the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo issued late on Wednesday.
Biden promised the deportation moratorium on the campaign trail.
Halt of oil activity in Arctic refuge
The administration has also announced plans on Wednesday for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the refuge considered sacred by the Indigenous Gwich'in.
Issuing leases had been a priority of the Trump administration following a 2017 law calling for lease sales, said Lesli Ellis-Wouters, a spokesperson for the US Bureau of Land Management in Alaska.
The agency held the first lease sale for the refuge's coastal plain on January 6. Eight days later, Ellis-Wouters said, it signed leases for nine tracts totalling nearly 1,770 square kilometres. The issuance of leases was not announced publicly until Tuesday, Trump's last full day in office.
Data, transparency, respect for free press
Biden's press secretary held her first news conference, vowing to bring truth and transparency back to government.
Jen Psaki, who served as the chief spokeswoman at the State Department under former President Barack Obama, told reporters she had a "deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy."
Marking a contrast to former President Trump and his top aides' treatment of what they called "the fake news media," Psaki pledged professional, civil exchange.
"There will be moments when we disagree, and there will certainly be days where we disagree for extensive parts of the briefing even, perhaps,” she said. "But we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people."
Biden plans to "bring transparency and truth back to the government to share the truth, even when it's hard to hear," she said.
'Unproductive and cynical'
China's move to sanction former Trump administration officials was "unproductive and cynical", a spokeswoman for President Biden's National Security Council said, urging Americans from both parties to condemn the move.
Around the time Biden was sworn in as president on Wednesday China announced sanctions against "lying and cheating" outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and 27 other top officials under former President Trump.
Biden said his actions on the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed 400,000 American lives, would help change the course of the crisis.
The US Covid-19 death toll on Wednesday surpassed the total American military death toll from World War II, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
As of Wednesday evening, the tracker showed that 405,400 people have died from the disease caused by the new coronavirus in the US.
The total number of combat and non-combat deaths in World War II was 405,399, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Republican senators respond
Moments after Biden signed the executive order to rejoin the accord, a group of Republican senators called for him to submit his plan to lawmakers for "review and consideration."
Senator Steve Daines, of Montana, submitted a resolution arguing the president should not be allowed to commit the United States to an international treaty without approval of two-thirds of the Senate.
The resolution was backed by three other Republicans – John Barrasso, Jerry Moran and Mike Crapo.
The senators' move reflects the deep-seated political divisions over global warming policy that are likely to dog Biden throughout his presidency as he seeks to drive greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
Rejoining Paris accord
"We are going to combat climate change in a way we have not done so far," Biden said of returning to the Paris agreement, a treaty signed by most nations in 2016 to limit global warming.
The process to re-enter the international accord takes a month, meaning the US will only officially have been out of the deal for a short time, since exiting in November.
But Trump's hostility to the UN climate process and his support for polluting fossil fuels have left Biden's team a lot of catching up to do at home and abroad, policy analysts said.
His return to the Paris Agreement, which the United States joined Obama was president and Biden vice president, was lauded by other leaders.
"Welcome back," said French President Emmanuel Macron.
"We are together. We will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also welcomed the move, saying it was a large step for the leading producers of global carbon pollution.
"But there is a very long way to go," he said in a statement.
"We look forward to the leadership of United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero" emissions, he said, calling for "ambitious" new targets for 2030 and expanded climate finance.
Biden's climate envoy John Kerry hailed the move as a boon for "America's credibility and commitment – setting a floor, not a ceiling, for our climate leadership."