Joe Biden will move to swiftly reverse some of Donald Trump’s most controversial policies with a slew of executive actions in the 10 days following his inauguration on Wednesday.
As Washington prepares for the most unorthodox inauguration in modern US history — with Mr Trump facing a Senate impeachment trial and the pandemic forcing a scaled-back event — Mr Biden is planning immediate actions to tackle the pandemic and other crises after he is sworn in.
Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of staff, said Mr Biden would focus his inaugural address on a message of unity and the need to quickly implement policies to address the significant crises that the country faces.
“It’s a message of getting things done,” Mr Klain told CNN on Sunday. “He’s gonna come back to the White House after giving that speech at the Capitol and take some immediate actions . . . to move this country forward.”
As Mr Biden prepares to enter the White House, Washington has dramatically increased security to prevent the kind of violence that occurred when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on January 6.
The Pentagon has approved deploying 25,000 National Guard troops to work with the Capitol Police, FBI and Secret Service. Many buildings in downtown Washington have been boarded up, and the National Mall which stretches from Congress to the Lincoln Memorial has been closed off. While security is always tight for big presidential events, the scene in the capital resembles a war zone.
State capitals across the US were also preparing for possible violence in the coming days following warnings from the FBI. In Michigan, where pro-Trump supporters last year plotted to kidnap the Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer, the National Guard deployed Humvees outside the statehouse in preparation for expected protests at the capital in Lansing.
On Sunday morning, however, few people had arrived at the state capital for a planned protest.
In a memo, Mr Klain said the first actions would focus on tackling the pandemic and economic recovery, the climate crisis, and the problem of racial inequity. He said Mr Biden would rescind the Muslim travel ban that Mr Trump installed four years ago. He will also propose legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11m immigrants who are living illegally in the country.
Speaking as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the US economy and the number of Americans killed by the virus approaches 400,000, Mr Klain said Mr Biden would extend restrictions on evictions and foreclosures to protect those who are unable to pay their rent or mortgages.
Mr Biden will assume office as the Senate prepares to try Mr Trump after the House impeached him for inciting the insurrection that led to the death of five people. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, has not made clear when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate, the move required to trigger the start of the trial in the upper chamber.
Mr Klain said he hoped senators would balance the demands of the trial with the need to hold hearings to approve the cabinet secretaries and other senior appointments that require Senate confirmation.
“I hope that the Senate leaders on a bipartisan basis find a way to move forward on all of their responsibilities,” he said. “This impeachment trial is one . . . but getting people into the government and getting action on coronavirus is another.”
Mr Klain said Mr Biden would work hard to strike deals with Republicans, even as he acknowledged that a large group of GOP lawmakers, including several senators, had objected to certifying his victory in the election.
“The American people . . . elected an evenly divided Senate, they elected a closely divided Congress,” Mr Klain said. “We’re gonna have to find ways for Democrats and Republicans to get things done.”
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