WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden will deliver an appeal to national unity when he is sworn in Wednesday and plans immediate moves to combat the coronavirus pandemic and undo some of President Donald Trump’s most controversial policies, his incoming chief of staff said Sunday.
Biden intends a series of executive actions in his first hours after his inauguration, an opening salvo in what is shaping up as a 10-day blitz of steps to reorient the country without waiting for Congress, aide Ron Klain said.
Klain told CNN's “State of the Union” that Biden, in his inaugural address to the nation, will deliver "a message of moving this country forward. A message of unity. A message of getting things done.”
Biden will end Trump’s restriction on immigration to the U.S. from some Muslim-majority countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel. Those are among roughly a dozen actions Biden will take on his first day in the White House, incoming chief of staff Ron Klain said Saturday in a memo to senior staff.
Other actions include extending the pause on student loan payments and actions meant to prevent evictions and foreclosures for those struggling during the pandemic.
“These executive actions will deliver relief to the millions of Americans that are struggling in the face of these crises,” Klain said in the memo. “President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward.”
Incoming White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Biden would use his address to the American people to appeal to those frustrated by the rancor of Washington and to explain how his administration will tackle the nation's challenges.
“I think you can expect that this will be a moment where President-elect Biden will really work to try to turn the page on the divisiveness and the hatred over the last four years and really lay out a positive, optimistic vision for the country, and lay out a way -- lay out a path forward that really calls on all of us to work together," she told “Fox News Sunday.”
Despite the flurry of expected executive action, "full achievement” of Biden’s goals will require Congress to act, Klain said memo, and that includes the $1.9 trillion virus relief bill that Biden outlined last Thursday. Klain said that Biden would also propose a comprehensive immigration bill to lawmakers on his first day in office.
Some lawmakers have already balked at the aid bill's price tag, and immigration overhaul efforts over the past decade and a half have all stalled in Congress. Still, Klain expressed optimism.
“I think there are people in both parties we can work with to move this agenda forward," Klain said Sunday, noting voters elected a 50-50 Senate, where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will serve as the tie-breaking vote. “We’re going to have to find ways to get Democrats and Republicans to work together to get things done.”
Providing a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally will be part of Biden's agenda, according to people briefed on his plans.
Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum and among those briefed, said immigrants would be put on an eight-year path. There would be a faster track for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields people from deportation who came to the U.S. as children, and for those from strife-torn countries with temporary status.
On Thursday, the new president's second day in office, Biden would sign orders related to the COVID-19 outbreak aimed at reopening schools and businesses and expanding virus testing, Klain said. The following day, Friday, will see action on providing economic relief to those suffering the economic costs of the pandemic.
In the following week, Klain said, Biden would take additional actions relating to criminal justice reform, climate change and immigration — including a directive to speed the reuniting of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under Trump’s policies.
More actions will be added, Klain said, once they clear legal review.
Incoming presidents traditionally move swiftly to sign an array of executive actions when they take office. Trump did the same, but he found many of his orders challenged and even rejected by courts.
Klain maintained that Biden should not suffer similar issues, saying “the legal theory behind them is well-founded and represents a restoration of an appropriate, constitutional role for the President.”
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.