Biden stays busy in first 100 days

The new administration makes key decisions on environment, economy, vaccine distribution.

President Joe Biden signs the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

Photo courtesy of WHYY

President Joe Biden signs the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

Ally McVey, Staff Writer

President Joe Biden has been dreaming of his rise to the presidency for quite some time — he first launched a bid for the White House in 1988, 33 years before his third attempt at the presidency would prove successful.

But even though Biden has spent over three decades envisioning what his presidential inauguration speech might sound like, it’s unlikely he could have imagined that a global pandemic, a violent insurrection, and an economic crisis would be three of his major talking points.

The Biden administration’s first 100 days will certainly be considered one of the most memorable and unique beginnings to a presidential term in American history. Biden and his team did not hesitate to begin executing Democrats’ policy agenda, but they also took steps to undo many of his predecessor’s previous accomplishments.

Some hail Biden’s swift approach as decisive leadership, while others criticize his use of presidential power. Either way, Biden wasted no time after his inauguration to begin doing the job he has so long dreamed of doing.

On his first day in office, Biden took full advantage of his power to issue executive actions, releasing a flurry during just his first hours as president. These actions included many pertaining to immigration; through various executive orders and proclamations, Biden halted construction of the border wall, reversed the Trump administration’s expansion of immigration law enforcement, strengthened the DACA program for so-called “Dreamers,” and reversed the Trump administration’s controversial travel ban on several predominately Muslim countries.

Biden also took environmental action, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and cancelling construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Biden’s remaining executive actions all dealt with the Coronavirus; the President instituted several programs encouraging mask usage and requiring it in federal facilities, and began to engineer the nation’s vaccine rollout by providing for accelerated manufacturing of vaccination supplies.

With these executive actions, the Biden administration attempted to tackle three national crises in a matter of hours and set the tone for its approach to the next four years; one of great involvement and decisive action.

While executive actions proved to be an effective means of policy implementation for Biden, his real challenge would be doing so through legislation. While Democrats control the House of Representatives, the Senate is divided equally amongst Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats holding the majority through Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. And while Biden has promised to promote unity in Congress, many Republican Senators have not been so receptive to the idea of reaching across the aisle.

However, the Biden administration’s recent Congressional victory proves that Democrats will not hesitate to carry out their legislative goals without the support of Republicans: on March 11th, the Senate passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus relief package into law without one Republican vote. The plan provides for $1,400 to be sent to most Americans, with additional funds being sent to restaurants, K-12 schools, and unemployment and welfare programs. The stimulus package, titled the American Rescue Plan Act, makes history as one of the most expensive pieces of legislation ever, and also provides massive support for COVID-19 vaccine efforts.
“When Jill and I first got a chance to move into this magnificent building, I promised the American people that help was on the way,” said Biden of the historic legislation. “Today, with the American Rescue Plan now signed into law, we’ve delivered on that promise.”

While the Biden administration has taken swift economic action during its first 100 days, it has been criticized for its lack of action in another area: immigration. Recently, a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border has intensified, with thousands of migrants being detained each day, and large amounts of children being taken into federal custody. This is due, in part, to worsening conditions in some Latin American countries, as the coronavirus runs rampant and economies decline. And while Biden has discouraged immigrants from attempting to cross the southern border for the time being, those fleeing persecution, violence, and unstable living conditions have not heeded his advice.

“Our focus now is putting in place…policies, including expediting processing at the border, opening up additional facilities…(and) restarting our Central American Minors program, which was stopped in 2017,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki of the issue at the southern border, with a subtle rhetorical nod to the previous administration’s contributions to the current crisis.

While the Biden administration may not have accomplished its goals in the area of immigration, it has exceeded all expectations in another highly anticipated initiative: the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Biden had originally set a goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days as President, but surpassed that milestone in approximately 60 days. The Biden administration secured deals with pharmaceutical giants Moderna and Pfzier for a combined 600 million doses of their vaccines, as well as with Johnson & Johnson, who will supply the U.S. with 100 million doses of its newly introduced COVID vaccine. Now, Biden’s latest objective is to vaccinate all adults by the end of May, and move toward achieving herd immunity by the end of the summer.

The Biden administration’s first 100 days have certainly been complex, challenging, and eventful. However, Biden’s trademark determination and strategic political actions have allowed him to begin his presidential term emphatically, and the progress made under his leadership likely leaves many Americans feeling hopeful for the future.