Just hours after being sworn in as the new president, Biden has began to undo some of Trump’s key policies
Yesterday (January 20) marked the long-awaited end of the hell that was the Donald Trump presidency, and the beginning of a Democrat-led America. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as president and vice president respectively, with the latter making history as the first woman and Black and Asian-American person to fulfil the role.
“This is America’s day,” Biden said in his first speech as president. “This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope; of renewal and resolve. Today we celebrate triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause – the cause of democracy. The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. Democracy has prevailed.”
In his inauguration speech, Biden also referenced this month’s storming of the Capitol by disgruntled (and dangerous) Trump supporters, held a moment’s silence for the victims of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and pledged to unite a deeply-divided US.
He then set out to work immediately. Just hours after being sworn in, Biden signed 15 executive orders, many reversing the Trump administration’s hostile and deadly policies. Among his main focuses are the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and protections for LGBTQ+ people.
Though he wasn’t able to get to everything on his first day, Biden is expected to overturn some of Trump’s anti-abortion rules, including a policy that prohibits US funding for overseas groups providing abortions. The president is also predicted to restore federal funding to organisations like Planned Parenthood, once again expand the reach of the contraceptive coverage mandate (meaning private insurance plans must cover birth control), and end the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal programs from paying for abortions, penalising low-income people in need of a procedure.
One order ouside of reversing Trump policies saw the president extend the nearly year-long pause on student loan payments, as part of an effort to relieve students of the burden amid the pandemic. Without Biden’s order, payments would have been forced to restart at the end of January.
Below, Dazed outlines some of the key Trump policies reversed by Biden so far.
REJOINED THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
In June 2017, Trump announced that he would be withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Agreement – a deal drafted in 2015 to strengthen the global response to the climate crisis. Due to the complex rules built into the agreement, the US only just officially withdrew in November 2020, becoming the first nation in the world to do so. Now, however, Biden has signed an executive order which will reinstate the US to the agreement – just one of many orders rolled out which aim to tackle the climate crisis. As the US is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases (China is the largest), this move is vital in the fight against, as Biden himself has called it, the “number one issue facing humanity”.
“It’s a huge day to get rid of this myopic, benighted administration and welcome in a new president who manifestly is committed to strong, meaningful action,” Todd Stern, who was the lead US negotiator in Paris, told The Guardian. “Rejoining Paris is just the first step, but it’s a big step.”
We're back in the Paris Climate Agreement.— President Biden (@POTUS) January 21, 2021
REVOKED THE PERMIT FOR THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE
Further ramping up efforts to tackle the climate crisis – something Trump has referred to as “mythical”, “non-existent”, and “an expensive hoax” – Biden has revoked the presidential permit for the long-disputed Keystone XL Pipeline. As a result, construction on the oil pipeline has been halted.
Environmentalists and Native American groups have fought the project for over a decade, since it was first proposed in 2008. The Keystone XL is a planned extension to the existing Keystone Pipeline System, which runs from the Canadian province of Alberta to various hubs in the US. The 1,700-mile XL pipeline would transport 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The privately-financed project – set to cost $8 billion – was halted in 2015, when then-president Barack Obama vetoed a bill approving its construction, but was restarted under the Trump administration.
Environmental groups have praised Biden’s move. Dale Marshall, the national climate program manager for Canada’s Environmental Defence, told TIME: “Killing the Keystone XL Pipeline once and for all is a clear indication that climate action is a priority for the White House.”
Biden cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline with the stroke of a pen today may have seemed easy.— Josh Fox #BanFrackingNow (@joshfoxfilm) January 21, 2021
But it wasn’t.
It’s the result of tireless constant pressure and organizing starting over ten years ago.
When we organize, we win.
Even if that means we win ten years later.
HALTED WITHDRAWAL FROM THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION
During his first day in office, Biden also retracted Trump’s bizarre decision to withdraw the US from the World Health Organisation (WHO). The former president accused the UN’s health body of being a “puppet of China” – where the coronavirus outbreak began – in May last year, before officially moving to withdraw from the WHO in July. That same day (July 7), then-presidential candidate Biden tweeted: “Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health. On my first day as president, I will rejoin the @WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage.”
Now officially president, Biden has followed through on his promise. “The WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, as well as countless other threats to global health and health security,” Biden said in a letter to António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations. “The United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security.”
Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, also announced that the US would be joining the international vaccine-sharing scheme Covax, which pools global funds to buy and equally distribute vaccines around the world – a programme previously rejected by Trump.
In a further attempt to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Biden signed an order requiring mask-wearing and social distancing in all federal buildings, as well as the development of a testing program for federal employees. The president has also asked citizens to join him in a ‘100 Days Masking Challenge’, which encourages Americans to wear a mask for 100 days. According to Reuters, Biden is expected to sign an order making masks mandatory on airplanes and interstate transport today (January 21).
BREAKING: Dr Anthony Fauci tells WHO that President Biden will sign a letter of intent later indicating the US plans to join COVAX - the programme to get vaccines to the poorest countries. Big news for the developing world.— naomi grimley (@naomigrimley) January 21, 2021
ENDED THE TRAVEL BAN ON MAJORITY-MUSLIM COUNTRIES
Biden has reversed the racist travel ban which was first imposed by Trump in 2017, and was updated last year. Three years ago, Trump restricted travel from several majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea. Iraq and Chad were also on the list, but have since been removed. The move followed his declaration in 2015 that he wanted a “total and complete shutdown” of the entry of Muslims to the US, whom he said have “great hatred towards Americans”. In 2017, however, he said it “was not a Muslim ban”, but a way of keeping America safe from terrorism. In February 2020, Trump expanded his travel ban to include Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan, and Myanmar.
Now, Biden has revoked the bans, enabling citizens from the affected countries to have their visas processed once again. Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, told the Associated Press (via the Los Angeles Times) that the ban “was nothing less than a stain on our nation”, adding that it was “rooted in xenophobia and religious animus”.
The president also reversed Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented people from the census, rolled back his policy that eliminated deportation priorities, and ended an emergency declaration used to divert funds to the wall on the US-Mexico border. According to The Guardian, Biden is also set to unveil an immigration reform bill, which will provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people; Greisa Martinez Rosas, the executive director of advocacy group, United We Dream, described it as “the most progressive immigration bill in history”.
From Biden's executive order rescinding Trump's Muslim travel ban: "Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all. ..."— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) January 21, 2021
REINSTATED PROTECTIONS FOR LGBTQ+ PEOPLE
An executive order signed by Biden yesterday assures that the federal government will not engage in workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As reported by Advocate, the order is expected to apply to the private sector as well. The decision follows Trump’s order in the final days of his presidency, which allowed social service providers that receive government funding to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.
Biden’s new order states: “Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love.” The president is also set to reverse a ban on diversity training at federal agencies, and will roll back Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. As well as this, LGBTQ+ advocates are urging Biden to reverse the Trump policies of allowing women’s homeless shelters to turn away trans women, and health care providers to refuse service to LGBTQ+ people.
The Human Rights Campaign described Biden’s order as “the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president”.
Biden (who - again - I’m no fan of) passed an executive order that prevents discrimination against trans children in school and trans people in the work place and there are British journalists at liberal papers calling it “terrible” lol. Absurd, crankish backward island— shon faye. (@shonfaye) January 21, 2021