President Joe Biden wasted no time in setting the tone for his administration’s legacy, issuing 15 executive orders and two presidential proclamations during the first hours of his tenure.
Biden’s first move was to have Chief of Staff Ronald Klain issue a Memorandum directing the heads of executive departments and agencies to withdraw rules, regulatory acts, or guidance documents that had been sent to the Federal Register, but still pending publication to be withdrawn until they have undergone review by one of President Biden’s appointees, while rules already published should be delayed from coming into effect for 60 days.
A fact sheet from the Biden transition team reads: “This action will allow the Biden Administration to prevent any detrimental so-called midnight regulations from taking effect, while ensuring that urgent measures in the public’s interest can proceed.”
The first executive order issued by the 46th President was to advance “Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities.” The Order’s preamble states: “Our country faces converging economic, health, and climate crises that have exposed and exacerbated inequities.” In citing a “historic movement for justice” that “has highlighted the unbearable human costs of systemic racism,” it appears to reference the Black Lives Matter riots that wracked cities across America in the spring and summer of 2020.
The Order defined “equity” as “the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities,” further arraying these communities as “Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.“
The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was instructed to conduct an assessment of whether government agencies “create or exacerbate barriers” to participation by eligible individuals and is due for delivery to the President within 6 months. Each federal agency is similarly directed to review programs and policies to determine if “underserved communities” face “systemic barriers in accessing benefits and opportunities available pursuant to those policies and programs” within 200 days.
The Order also quietly revoked two of President Trump’s executive orders, Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping and Establishing the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission issued in September and December of 2020 respectively.
The 1776 Commission had aimed to chronicle and root the principles of the founding fathers in the American education system in order to “enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union.”
Trump’s executive order on race and sex stereotyping sought to combat “offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating” through the so-called “Critical Race Theory” that was being spread through government employees and contractors, saying a vision of America was being pushed that “is grounded in hierarchies based on collective social and political identities rather than in the inherent and equal dignity of every person as an individual.”
The outgoing president felt these beliefs are “rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.”
The 1776 Commission aimed to chronicle and root the principles of the founding fathers in the American education system in order to “enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union.”
President Biden’s first Proclamation revoked Trump’s 2017 Order banning entry from foreign nationals from several countries connected with terrorism, such as Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Syria, directing all embassies and consulates to resume processing visa applications that were restricted under his predecessor’s regulations.
Biden also issued an executive order mandating federal properties and employees to wear masks at all times and for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “encourage widespread mask-wearing” in conjunction with the head of the Center for Disease Control with the American public.
The administration further ordered his government to “Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19”, establishing a “COVID-19 Response Coordinator” who will report directly to Biden to oversee the production of vaccines and personal protective equipment, expanded federal government-backed testing, and to work to re-open schools.
Biden further unwound Trump’s 2017 Order on illegal immigration that directed federal agencies to “employ all lawful means to ensure the faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens,” specifically those who have committed criminal offenses, fraudulently represented their immigration applications, or abused federal programs for legal immigrants. A further two orders that were revoked had prevented illegal aliens from being counted in the Federal Census and restored the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
The president also revoked five of Donald Trump’s executive orders issued between 2017 and 2019 that reduced government regulation and oversight.
The new government also ordered government agencies to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in respect to President Biden’s views on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Biden also halted the construction and funding of Trump’s Mexico-U.S. border wall project, saying “building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution. It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security,” while pledging to install a “comprehensive and humane” immigration system.
President Biden also issued an order requiring all of his Executive Branch appointees to sign a pledge affirming they will not accept gifts from lobbyists, imposing a two-year moratorium on “revolving door” practices for departed officials and lobbyists, banning “golden parachute” payouts and benefits from former employers after entering office, and an “Employment Qualification Commitment” intended to force hiring decisions are based on a candidate’s qualifications rather than cronyism.