President Joe Biden Jr. was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2021. In his first day in office, Biden immediately began issuing executive orders that demonstrated his commitment to shifting policy away from Donald Trump’s administration. Despite the controversy surrounding President Biden’s victory over incumbent Trump, particularly the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by a pro-Trump mob, Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20 went smoothly and ushered in a new era of American administration. At the time of writing, President Biden has already issued 42 executive orders in his first few weeks in office.
The first executive order that President Biden signed in office was entitled “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” In this, President Biden addressed the fact that systemic inequalities in healthcare and economics, particularly, have inhibited many marginalized communities from accessing opportunities. The order mandates that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget partners with the head of federal agencies to assess these barriers. In six months, this will culminate in a report to President Biden suggesting ways to eliminate barriers facing marginalized groups.
Prioritizing the climate crisis in his first days in office, one of the executive orders that Biden signed was to rejoin theParis climate agreement and to reinstate more than 100 regulations which former President Trump limited or eliminated during his administration. The U.S. now joins more than 200 nations in the Paris climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions and to limit the consequences of global warming. President Biden also rescinded the permit that would allow construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would have transported carbon-heavy oil to the Gulf Coast, cutting through the Great Sioux Reservation. Biden has announced an ambitious plan to reduce the country’s carbon dioxide emissions entirely by 2050.
Biden also introduced an executive order centered on combating the spread of COVID-19 by providing a unified response to the pandemic and instated a requirement to wear a mask and social distance on federal property. For this, President Biden created the position of Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the president, who will oversee efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus, addressing racial and ethnic disparities, and coordinate distribution of the vaccine.
Among Biden’s priorities is banning discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identy. In the past few years, there has been notable progress for the LGBT+ community’s fight for equal rights., Last year’s Bostock vs. Clayton County Georgia is a landmark decision that protects employees from discrimination due to their gender or sexuality, for example, though such protections were not consistently enforced under the Trump administration. Biden’s “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” includes protections for transgender children at school, as well as an acknowledgement that transgender Black people face unique discrimination at the workplace. This executive order does not put new laws into place, but signals that Biden’s administration is prepared to defend protective laws already on the books from decades past. An additional executive order on “Enabling All Qualified Americans To Serve Their Country in Uniform” allows transgender individuals to serve in the military.
Expanding his interest in responsivity to discrimination, President Biden signed the “Executive Order on Reforming Our Incarceration System To Eliminate the Use of Privately Operated Criminal Detention Facilities.” Acknowledging the disproportionate number of people of color in the carceral system, President Biden announced this initiative to move away from the Federal Government’s use of for-profit privately owned and operated criminal detention facilities. With this, President Biden addresses the underperformance of these facilities in the goal of prioritizing rehabilitation of inhabitants, seeking to ensure the safe and human treatment of those in the criminal justice system by moving away from under-regulated prisons.
In terms of financial decisions, Biden has put pressure on Congress to forgive $10,000 of student loan debt per person as an extension of COVID-19. It is estimated that this would wipe out student loan debt for 67 percent of student loan borrowers. Concurrently, he has pulled funds from building the border wall. Additionally, Biden has mandated an ethics pledge for government appointees, barring them from accepting gifts from lobbyists.
As the U.S. transitions out of former President Trump’s administration, President Biden has centered his attention in his first days in office on addressing inequalities, whether they be on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. By retracting many decisions made by the previous president, President Biden has set a new precedent in accountability in areas from the climate crisis to the carceral system. In the coming months and years, this new administration will be tasked with finding ways to uphold the initiatives that President Biden has introduced through executive orders.