President Joe Biden is moving swiftly to dismantle Donald Trump’s legacy. On his first day in office, he signed a series of executive actions that reverse course on immigration, climate change, racial equity and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new president signed the orders just hours after taking the oath of office at the Capitol, pivoting quickly from his pared-down inauguration ceremony to enacting his agenda. With the stroke of a pen, Biden ordered a halt to the construction of Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall, ended the ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries, declared his intent to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization and revoked the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, aides said.
The 15 executive actions and two directives amount to an attempt to rewind the last four years of federal policies with striking speed. Only two recent presidents signed executive actions on their first day in office — and each signed just one. But Biden, facing the debilitating coronavirus pandemic, a damaged economy and a riven electorate, was intent on demonstrating a sense of urgency and competence that he argues has been missing under his Republican predecessor.
The combination of executive orders, memoranda, directives and letters Biden signed on Day One included:
• Launching a “100 Days Masking Challenge,” asking the American public to do “their patriotic duty” by wearing face masks and instituting a mask mandate requiring face coverings and physical distancing on federal property and by federal employees and contractors.
• Creating the position of federal Covid-19 Response Coordinator, reporting directly to the president. To fill the position, Biden has chosen Jeff Zients, a former director of the National Economic Council in the Obama administration who is best known for his role in fixing the HealthCare.gov website after its disastrous rollout.
• Reversing the Trump administration’s move to withdraw from the World Health Organization, which the Biden transition team called “an entity that is critical to coordinating the international response to COVID-19, advancing preparedness for future epidemics and pandemics, and improving the health of all people.”
• Reestablishing the National Security Council’s global health security team, which was disbanded under Trump.
• Asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to extend federal eviction and foreclosure moratoriums until at least March 31 and calling on Congress to provide more assistance to renters.
• Asking the Department of Education to extend the pause on interest and payments for federal student loans until at least September 30.
• Terminating the national emergency declaration Trump used to divert federal funds toward construction of border barriers. Biden’s proclamation pauses wall construction projects “to allow a close review of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used, and to determine the best way to redirect funds that were diverted by the prior Administration to fund wall construction,” his transition team said.
• Repealing the Trump administration’s interior immigration enforcement order that sought to strip federal funds from so-called “sanctuary cities.”