President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made history earlier this year as they were sworn into office, a mere two weeks after a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol. In the first '100 days' in office, the Biden administration has already committed to numerous executive orders that focus on major reversals of certain Trump policies and centre tackling COVID-19 as major priority.
Inauguration Day (Wednesday, January 20) was a triumphant change of pace for Americans who watched as Biden became the oldest President-elect ever to hold the title at 77 year old, and as Harris became the first Black and Asian-American woman to be elected to the Vice President position in the White House.
The event was a star-studded affair with former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and former First Ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton all in attendance. Performances from Lady Gaga - who delivered the National Anthem wearing a giant Schiaparelli Haute Couture gown with a poignant dove brooch - and a passionate Jennifer Lopez also added to the momentous affair. Both artists joined the ranks of artists like Beyonce, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin who have performed at previous inauguration days.
The tributes were topped off with a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, who, at 22, is the youngest inaugural poet laureate ever. She encapsulated the experience beautifully, saying: 'Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken, but simply unfinished... For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it.'
In among the fanfare and fist bumps during the socially distanced ceremony were eerie reminders of the current Covid-19 pandemic and extra security measures following reports and warnings of potential attacks on the new President. Elements of the inauguration that only served to highlight the impact of the previous administration and the importance of President Joe Biden's initial executive orders.
Here is what Joe Biden has done since gaining office as the 46th President of the United States:
What has Joe Biden Already Accomplished?'
Hours after being sworn in, earlier this year Biden signed a historic 17 executive actions – 15 will be executive orders, all of which will be major reversals from Trump’s policies.
Despite the pride and progress shown throughout Inauguration Day, the sombre overtone of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was notable in Joe Biden's first executive orders.
A series of measures are se to be enacted to tackle the pandemic which has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the US. There will be a mandate to wear masks and practice social distancing on all federal government property - a noticeable change from Trump’s more relaxed approach.
Biden also plans to create the position of Covid-19 Response Coordinator, who will report directly to the President and to launch a '100 Days Masking Challenge' asking Americans to mask up for 100 days and leading by example in the federal government.
Biden will also ensure that the US rejoins the World Health Organisation, and will be sending Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, as the head of delegation to its executive board meeting - a move that will halt the process begun by the Trump administration to withdraw from the WHO.
— Biden Inaugural Committee (@BidenInaugural) January 20, 2021
The President of the United States spoke to the nation from the White House on Monday February 22 after it was confirmed that 500,000 Americans have now passed away because of the virus.
Here is an excerpt from his speech:
'We must end the politics and misinformation that’s divided families, communities and the country. It’s cost too many lives already. It’s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus. It’s our fellow Americans. It’s our neighbours, our friends, our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters, husbands, wives. We have to fight this together as one people, as the United States of America. That’s the only way we’re going to beat this virus, I promise you.'
After the address, Biden joined by First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, at a candlelight vigil in honour of the lives lost outside the White House. The memorial included a moment of silence as well as as 500 candles to signify the number of lives lost.
The sentiments expressed during the memorial are also set to be brought to fruition with the administration's announcement of a clear timeframe for vaccination availability across the US.
In a press briefing on March 2, Biden announced that the US will have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for every American adult by the end of May. Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris, during a press briefing explained to reporters:
'We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May. About three weeks ago, we were able to say that we’d have enough vaccine supply for adults by the end of July, We rectified that.'
This reduced timeline for the US population is due, in part, to the introduction of a third approved vaccine, from the drugmaker and medical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.
The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine 'joins' the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines currently in circulation in the US.
The fight against COVID-19 is a war-time effort — and to win, we need breakthrough approaches. Today, I’m announcing we’re bringing together Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and the full power of the federal government to ramp up vaccine production and defeat this virus. pic.twitter.com/knu1PIXOtl
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 2, 2021
All three vaccines were credited by Dr Anthony Fauci as 'highly efficacious' during a recent NBC interview at preventing both the spread of the virus and people’s level of illness if they do happen contract it.
Fauci also recently announced his support for the new vaccine, noting in February, per Reuters: 'The J&J data that just came out, when you have advanced critical disease, there were no hospitalisations and no deaths. That’s good news.'
Although Biden's recent announcement is to be congratulated, the rollout of the vaccine supply is most likely to take longer due the distribution logistics needed in order to get to clinics across the US, according to The New York Times.
Biden is set to launch a whole-government initiative to advance racial equity.
The initiative is set to include 'Identifying Methods to Assess Equity' and 'Allocating Federal Resources to Advance Fairness and Opportunity'. The move towards this form of better racial equality was central to Biden's first Racial Equality Address - initially announced on January 21 and took place after Senators were sworn in for Trump's impeachment.
In a White House memorandum issued on Tuesday January 26, titled 'Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States', the new administration discussed the numerous failings of the previous government in stamping out this issue.
Alongside the statement, the new US president made a public pledge to crack down on xenophobia against Asian-Americans in the wake of an increase in violence and harassment during the pandemic, which some argue has been fuelled by Donald Trump’s frequent references to the 'China virus'.
The memorandum reads, in part,: 'The Federal Government must recognise that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin.'
The newly sworn in President echoed this sentiment throughout his accompanying speech and described the discrimination as 'un-American'.
The new order also calls for 'cultural competency' and sensitivity toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as part of its Covid response efforts. The memorandum also urges the US Department of Justice to partner with those communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment against them.
Biden has also started to put in motion the reversal of the unconstitutional Muslim ban and a Trump’s order that empowered harsh and extreme immigration enforcement - including the infamous building of the Mexico-US border.
Alongside this he has ordered that all appointees in the executive branch sign an ethics pledge, to avoid any further instances of internal corruption. Yes, it would seem that this is a direct dig at the Trump tax returns fiasco.
Environment and Climate Change
Biden further confirmed his commitment to a tidal change from the previous admiration by signing an executive order beginning the process of rejoining the 2015 Paris climate agreement, from which Mr Trump formally withdrew the US from last year.
Additionally, Biden has revoked the Presidential permit granted to the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, which environmentalists and Native American groups have fought for more than a decade.
Biden has repealed a divisive law, passed under the Trump administration, which brings an end to Trump's ban on transgender Americans joining the military. The ban was announced by the former president during his first year in office.
In a statement released by the The White House on January 20 titled 'Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation', the explanation of the repeal reads:
Transgender service members will no longer be subject to the possibility of discharge or separation on the basis of gender identity, President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America's strength is found in its diversity.
The new US president took to his official Twitter page to confirm that he had overturned the legislation, four years after Trump issued the ban and announced the news on Twitter.
Today, I repealed the discriminatory ban on transgender people serving in the military. It’s simple: America is safer when everyone qualified to serve can do so openly and with pride.
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 25, 2021
This decision will signal change for the LGBTQ+ community which has been at the centre of some of Trump's most stringent policies.
The news came days after Biden said he would nominate Pennsylvania’s top health official, Rachel Levine, to be his assistant secretary of health - a move that would make Levine the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the US Senate.
'Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,' Biden said in a statement about the doctor's nomination.
On February 14, Biden called on Congress to enact 'common sense' gun laws, in honour of the three-year anniversary of the Parkland school shooting. If enacted, the laws will aim to ban assault weapons and make background checks a requirement for all gun sales.
In his statement, the President explained that his administration's policy is aimed at making schools and communities safer by enacting laws to reduce gun violence.
Three years ago today, a lone gunman took the lives of 14 students and three educators in Parkland, Florida. In seconds, the lives of dozens of families were changed forever. As we mourn with the Parkland community, we mourn for all who have lost loved ones to gun violence. pic.twitter.com/k050oDHXIi
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 14, 2021
This most recent call to action to reduce gun violence reads:
'Three years ago today, a lone gunman took the lives of 14 students and three educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In seconds, the lives of dozens of families, and the life of an American community, were changed forever.'
'This Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call. We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer.'
Biden also noted how some Parkland students - many of who were notable leaders in the March For Our Lives demonstrations in 2018 - turned their grief into calls for action, stating that 'so many other young people across the country who have experienced gun violence are carrying forward the history of the American journey'.
What should we expect from the next '100 days' in office ?'
Joe Biden's executive orders and actions have already set a wholly different tone from the last administration — a pensive and ethically driven one that has appropriately addresses the tragic impact of Covid-19, institutionalised racism and climate change for the US.
The 46th US president will also use these initial days in office to secure congressional approval for his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan to revive the economy, he has also committed to administering 100 million vaccines by his 100th day in office.
One immediate and desperate priority will also be action to save Obamacare by withdrawing it from a federal legal case to end it - brought about by the Trump administration.
In his inaugural address Biden said: 'Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause: the cause of democracy' the next '100 days' are set to be marked by this hopeful and unifying message.
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