President Joe Biden signed a slew of executive orders, many of them aimed at directly rebuking Trump-era policies

By Virginia Chamlee
January 21, 2021 01:15 PM
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Following a series of unprecedented inaugural ceremonies featuring celebrity performances, a massive fireworks display and a virtual parade across America, Joe Biden wasted no time getting to work on Wednesday evening when he signed his first stack of executive orders as the 46th president of the United States.

Speaking to reporters as he sat behind the Oval Office Resolute Desk, Biden signed more than a dozen orders, many of them reversing controversial policies instated by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

In a largely ceremonial action, Biden also signed a proclamation for January 20, 2021, to be officially known as "a National Day of Unity," calling on the American people to "join together and write the next story of our democracy — an American story of decency and dignity, of love and of healing, and of greatness and of goodness."

President Joe Biden signed executive orders in the Oval Office soon after he was sworn in
| Credit: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

Unity was a central theme of Biden's campaign, one that the new president has framed as a marked contrast from the Trump administration's often divisive rhetoric and policies.

In a message to his incoming staffers on Wednesday evening, Biden said his administration would be judged by how well it "restores the integrity and competency in this government."

In a statement released on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said more actions would be forthcoming.

"In the coming days and weeks we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the President-elect's promises to the American people, including revoking the ban on military service by transgender Americans, and reversing the Mexico City policy," Psaki said.  

Below, a look at the executive orders signed by Biden on his first day in office.

Equity and Equality

One executive order, on advancing racial equity, outlines that the policy of the new administration will be to "pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality."

The order also revokes a Trump executive order establishing his administration's 1776 Commission, an 18-member panel that aimed to rewrite history and develop an education framework rooted in "patriotism."

Another executive order, signed by Biden on Wednesday, promotes equity by banning discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender.

The Environment

In one of his first executive actions, Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, an international agreement designed to mitigate catastrophic global warming.

In June 2017, Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the landmark 2015 agreement, which he described as being unfair to American businesses. The process to rejoin the accord will take 30 days.

Biden also ordered an immediate review of all policies enacted during Trump's time in office that don't "advance environmental justice" and canceled the March 2019 permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have transported crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

The pipeline was highly controversial, as it would have extended through ecologically sensitive areas, including aquifers from which drinking water is sourced. The pipeline is currently not in operation, though it is partially constructed, as The New York Times reported.

President Joe Biden (L) and former president Donald Trump
| Credit: Getty Images

The Economy

One executive order extends a nationwide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until at least March 31. Another extends a pause on student loan payments and interest for those with student loans until at least September 30.

Coronavirus

As promised, one of Biden's first executive actions was to sign an order asking Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office. The order signed on Wednesday also requires that masks be worn on federal lands and within federal buildings.

A separate order halts the White House's exit from the World Health Organization, a marked reversal from Trump, who had threatened to permanently hold U.S. funding to the United Nations' agency, which is responsible for international public health. The order also places Dr. Anthony Fauci in charge of the U.S. delegation to the WHO.

Biden also signed an executive order creating the position of COVID-19 response coordinator, who will report directly to the president and "coordinate all elements of the COVID-19 response."

In a November interview with MSNBC, Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain said the response coordinator person will brief the president daily.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden
| Credit: CNN

Immigration

Five of Biden's first executive orders dealt directly with immigration, undoing much of the Trump administration's efforts to dramatically reshape policy in the U.S.

In addition to strengthening DACA (the policy that allows some who have entered the country illegally as children to become eligible for a work permit), Biden also halted the construction of Trump's notorious border wall by terminating the emergency declaration that funded it.

Another executive order overturned the Trump policy of making sanctuary cities ineligible for federal grants.

Biden also signed an order extending the deferral of deportations and work authorizations for Liberians "forced to flee their country as a result of armed conflict and widespread civil strife."

Other

Other executive actions signed by Biden on Wednesday include one directing the head of the Office of Management and Budget to overhaul the regulatory review process; one requiring members of the executive branch to sign a pledge promising to act "exclusively in the public interest, without regard to private gain or personal benefit;" and one that requires non-citizens to be included in the U.S. Census process.