Biden’s First Month
By 8:30 pm on January 20th, newly-sworn-in President Joe Biden had signed fifteen executive orders. These orders mainly concerned racial justice, climate change, the economy, and of course COVID-19. Most notably, Biden planned to rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Agreement, requested multiple federal agencies to extend eviction moratoriums until March 31, and “place[d] a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge”(Ordonez, Rascoe, Sprunt), among many other tentative measures.
After his first month in office, many political analysts have noted that Biden’s plans were more about erasing former President Donald Trump’s legacy, rather than creating one of his own, with AP News reporters writing “Biden has been purging Trumpism however he can in [his] opening stretch” (Lemire, Woodward). Seemingly, these observations are correct: Biden has signed executive orders to halt the construction of a wall at the Mexican border (something which Trump had heavily campaigned on), to “begin to reverse more than 100 actions Trump took to roll back environmental regulations,”(Ordonez, Rascoe, Sprunt) and to revoke the 1776 Commission (implemented by Trump); he has also upheld his promise to hold daily press briefings (Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, held more press briefings in her first week than the former administration did in a year). Biden’s first month was also against a backdrop of political turmoil carried over from the 45th presidency, with his predecessor’s impeachment trial (and ultimate acquittal), along with continued discussions about the January 6th insurrection.
Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is slowly being approved through the Senate. So far, eleven Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions have been approved, including Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation, and Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury (the first woman to ever hold this position). Internally, there have been few mishaps within the Biden Administration, save for an encounter between a White House aide and a reporter. TJ Ducklo, the former Special Assistant to President Biden and a White House Junior Deputy Press Secretary reportedly made misogynistic and demeaning statements to reporter Tara Palmeri, of Politico. Ducklo was suspended for a week without pay and ultimately resigned on February 13th.
There is no doubt that President Biden has his work cut out for him. Although cases and hospitalizations have declined significantly, the U.S. has recently surpassed a grave milestone with 500,000 death related to COVID-19. The performance of the vaccine rollout has been underwhelming. Tensions concerning racial justice are still high, as Americans recently passed the one-year anniversary of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the unarmed Black man who was shot while jogging, and is nearing the anniversaries of the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The Mexican border and immigration emergency continue to be debated. Abroad, NATO is still debating about how to handle the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. – and the world- are living through multiple historic crises. However, in the words of President Biden, we can and we will “build back better.”