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What Did Biden Do On His 1st Day As President?

Joe Biden, seen here speaking in Delaware just before leaving for Washington, D.C., has planned a flurry of executive actions for the start of his presidency.
Chip Somodevilla
Getty Images
Joe Biden, seen here speaking in Delaware just before leaving for Washington, D.C., has planned a flurry of executive actions for the start of his presidency.

Updated at 8:35 p.m. ET

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that President Biden has signed 15 executive actions, part of a flurry of steps he plans to take in the coming days to address his top policy priorities — and to roll back some of former President Donald Trump's initiatives.

White House officials had originally told reporters there would be 17 actions signed, focused on addressing the COVID-19 crisis, the economy, racial justice and climate change.

The signed actions include a mandate for masks on federal property, an action to rejoin the Paris climate accord, a removal of Trump's travel ban affecting Muslim-majority nations, a proclamation halting further funding or construction to the wall along the U.S. southern border, and an order reversing Trump's decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization.

"This will strengthen our own efforts to get the pandemic under control by improving global health," Psaki said during her first White House press briefing Wednesday night.

She added that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, will participate remotely in a WHO executive board meeting on Thursday.

On climate change, Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, which environmentalists have vehemently opposed for years.

Psaki announced that Biden asked agencies to extend nationwide moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and the Department of Education to extend the pause on student loan payments and interest.

She also announced the White House has sent an immigration bill to Congress.

"The president's priority reflected in the bill [is] to responsibly manage the border, keep families together, grow our economy, address the root causes of migration from Central America, and ensure that America can remain a refuge for those fleeing [persecution]," she said.

White House officials have said the actions signed Wednesday are just the first of many to come over the next several weeks.

"No time to start like today," Biden told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon as he signed the first three actions.

"We have a long way to go," he said, adding he'll need to work with Congress on top priorities.

The use of executive actions has become more common in recent presidencies, with congressional gridlock often stalling major legislation. But the actions can be fodder for lawsuits and criticism from political opponents — and can be more easily overturned by future administrations.

In her briefing, Psaki told reporters Biden will have his first call with a foreign leader on Friday when he plans to speak with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Top of mind for the Biden administration is advancing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package with Congress, something the president has already been discussing with lawmakers.

Psaki said Biden prefers to move forward with a bipartisan bill, noting that could require some changes from the initial package. She did not, however, rule out using the budget reconciliation process to advance the measures.

Below is a partial list of Biden's planned actions:

  • rejoin the World Health Organization;
  • ask federal agencies to extend eviction and foreclosure moratoriums through March 31;
  • ask the Education Department to extend the federal student loan payment and interest pause through Sept. 30;
  • place a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;
  • begin to reverse more than 100 actions Trump took to roll back environmental regulations;
  • rescind Trump's 1776 Commission and revoke Trump's order limiting diversity training;
  • stop all wall construction at the southern border; and
  • reverse the Trump directive to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census numbers used to reapportion each state's share of congressional seats and Electoral College votes.
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    Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
    Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.
    Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.