On Wednesday, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America (USA).
This ended President Donald Trump’s tumultuous tenure which was capped with never-proved allegation of rigged election and the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol by his mob of supporters to stop the 117th Congress from validation of Biden’s election on January 6, 2021.
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With the insurrection failure, the twice-impeached Trump reluctantly surrendered power but refused to either concede or participate in Biden’s inauguration.
Today, Biden must rebuild a devastated economy and restore faith to a country reeling from over 406,000 COVID-19 deaths.
Biden must help rebuild faith in U.S. after Trump’s chaotic presidency, which embraced division and racial discord, which railed against a “deep state” within his own government, praised autocrats and attacked allies, politicised the administration of justice, monetised the presidency for himself and family and presided over a tumultuous, turnover-ridden administration via impulsive tweets.
And he must do this without an overwhelming national mandate as there is a 50-50 Senate and the smallest House majority Democrats have experienced in nearly a century and a half (221-211). His margin of victory of 65,009 votes in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District made him the Electoral College winner as he garnered 81 million votes or 51.3 percent of total popular vote.
Also, on ground, precedent shows that recoveries from the pandemic-induced recession may take longer. It took only 11 months for the job market to recover from the 1980 recession but 77 to recover from the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. With this trend, it could be 2027 before the job market fully recovers.
But to send a signal that he’s hitting the ground running, on his first day in office, President Biden issued 17 executive orders, memoranda, and requests on issues pertaining to COVID-19, Immigration, Economy, Environment, Equity, Ethics and Regulation.
Nine of the 17 directly reverse Trump’s policies, a head start that sets off an aggressive push to undo many of the former president’s policies in the coming days and weeks.
Expectedly, more executive actions are coming in the next 10 days in a blitz of unilateral authority that would thrust Biden’s agenda into motion.
On COVID-19, Biden’ issued three executive orders on nationwide mask and physical-distancing mandate on all federal grounds and the creation of Coronavirus-Response coordinator to oversee his administration’s distribution of vaccines and medical supplies. It also revived a global health unit in the National Security Council that Trump had disbanded.
He also cancelled Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organisation (WHO), appointing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, to head the U.S. delegation to the body.
The president also reversed Trump’s most contentious immigration including restrictions on travel ban from seven Muslim-majority nations, overhauling immigration enforcement, ceased construction of the border wall and nullified Trump’s directive to exclude non-citizens from the census count.
Further, Biden issued a memorandum for the Department of Homeland Security to “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, which protects undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children, and to suspend deportations for “certain non-citizens ordered deported” for the next 100 days.
Separately, Biden has introduced an ambitious bill to Congress on Immigration, among other provisions, proposing an eight-year path to citizenship for about 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status.
More importantly for the rest of the world, Biden’s executive action rejoins the Paris climate accord, which will take 30 days to go into effect. He cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline by revoking the permit as part of an ambitious pledge to address the existential climate crisis that Trump spent much of his term denying.
Biden’s work is clear as he told his appointees: “We have such an awful lot to do.” This knowledge should help him restore and give proper U.S. leadership in world affairs.