President Joe Biden didn't waste any time getting down to business during his first official day on the job. Just hours after his Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony, the president settled into the oval office by signing 17 executive orders and actions, several of which were aimed at reversing former President Donald Trump's controversial policy decisions. Here are four things Biden did on his first day in office, which certainly set the tone for his four-year term.
Biden's presidency comes at a particularly difficult time for the nation. As Americans are still dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the nation itself is also struggling to maintain order in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump's chaotic final days in office, which culminated on Jan. 6 in an attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump insurrectionists.
Biden, however, seems to be making quick work of dismantling some of Trump's most contentious policies. On Jan. 20, he signed executive orders and actions addressing a wide range of issues, including America's COVID-19 response, financial relief amid the pandemic, environmental actions, civil rights, immigration, and more. While this list only encompasses a few of the actions Biden took during his first day in the White House, it does explain some of his most significant motions.
During his Inauguration Day speech, Biden made it clear that he plans to implement his agenda "with speed and urgency," because America has "much to do in this winter of peril and possibility — much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build," he stated.
1. Rejoining the Paris climate agreement
Despite the urgency of the global climate crisis, back in 2017 Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, a multinational accord between nearly 200 nations to voluntarily reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. Trump withdrew from the agreement soon after he assumed office. "The Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States," he claimed in a 2017 address. "[It] will undermine our economy," he added, suggesting that it will put the U.S. "at a permanent disadvantage."
Rejoining the agreement was one of the first motions on the agenda for the Biden administration, and on Jan. 20 Biden announced that the United States would be back on board. “We’re going to combat climate change in a way we have not before,” he said ahead of signing the executive order, per The New York Times. At the same time, Biden canceled the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and revoked oil and gas development at national wildlife monuments, all part of a larger climate plan. Now that Biden has signed the order to rejoin the Paris agreement, the United States will take measured steps to ensure its greenhouse emissions remain at sustainable levels.
2. Pausing student loan payments due to COVID-19
Millions of people across the country are struggling to make ends meet amid the devastating economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic, including current and former college students — many of whom aren't even qualified to receive COVID-19 relief payments because of their status as dependents. Placing a "pause" on student loan payments means Americans would have more available funds to pay for basic living necessities, such as food and housing. While payments were previously paused under the Trump administration, these provisions were set to expire on Jan. 31, 2021.
On Jan. 20, the Biden administration extended the "pause" on student loan payments until Sept. 30, stating in a release that "Too many Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities and to provide for their families. They should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table." At the same time, the Biden administration extended a national moratorium on evictions to last through March of 2021.
Although Biden still supports his pledge to cancel $10,000 of student loan debt, this motion still has to be approved by Congress.
3. Implementing a federal COVID-19 response plan
Since the incoming Biden administration discovered Trump's team had essentially no plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, per CNN, much of the work to combat COVID must be started from scratch. On Jan. 20, Biden signed several executive orders to combat the pandemic, which included rejoining the World Health Organization (WHO) after Trump withdrew from it in July 2020; bringing back an Obama-era plan called the "Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense," which takes concrete steps to respond to international outbreaks of infectious disease; and implementing a "100 Days Masking Challenge" for federal employees and on federal lands.
During his first 100 days in office, Biden also aims to distribute 100 million vaccine doses across the nation, per Kaiser Health News — a lofty goal. "We can and will beat COVID-19," Biden explained in a Jan. 21 White House address. "America deserves a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that is driven by science, data, and public health — not politics."
4. Reversing Trump's stringent immigration policies
From the very beginning of his chaotic presidency, Trump was a fierce proponent of strict immigration policy. In 2017, he initiated a sweeping ban restricting travel and immigration to the U.S. from heavily-Muslim countries including Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, and Tanzania were added to the list, colloquially called a "Muslim travel ban," in 2020. Trump also sought to put a permanent end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that allows nearly 800,000 undocumented young people who came to the United States as children to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation. And perhaps the biggest symbol of Trump's presidency was his proposal for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, which he promised Mexico would pay for. The wall never truly materialized, despite policy actions such as Trump declaring a state of emergency at the border in an effort to obtain funding for construction.
The Biden administration made quick work of rolling back many of Trump's most controversial immigration policies: just hours after his inauguration, the new president signed orders that ended Trump's national emergency declaration from February 2019, which had been used to divert money (much of it coming from the American taxpayer) to construct the Southern border wall. The wall has reportedly eaten up some $11 billion in taxpayer funding, per NPR. Additionally, Biden signed orders to defend the DACA program for undocumented young Americans, and end the so-called "Muslim travel ban."
"These people are just waiting for a chance to contribute fully," Biden stated during a 2014 U.S.-Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event. "And by that standard, 11 million undocumented [immigrants] are already Americans, in my view."
Biden's been rolling out big changes since he assumed office, and it already looks like his administration is looking toward a fresh new United States.