Biden starts work with an about-face

President Joe Biden got off to a fast start.
President Joe Biden got off to a fast start.
--White House photo.

 Joseph R. Biden spent his first days as president of the United States setting a new course for the country. 

    To be more specific, he's turning the ship of state around. In the first two days of his presidency, he signed a raft of proclamations and executive orders, not just moving away from the policies of Donald Trump's administration, but doing a total about-face. Here are five examples. 

 1. Biden ordered the redirection of funding that had been diverted to pay for a wall along the Mexican border. 

    Biden's proclamation noted, "Like every nation, the United States has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats. But building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution. It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security."
    The president took another step, as well. The order directs an "assessment of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used to construct the wall."

 2. He ended discriminatory bans on entry to the United States.

     This puts an end to a controversial executive order Trump signed in 2017 banning foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The order, later revised, was hotly fought by the American Civil Liberties Union. (See the timeline on the organization's website.)
     Biden's order reasons, "The United States was built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance, a principle enshrined in the United States Constitution.  Nevertheless, the previous administration enacted a number of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations that prevented certain individuals from entering the United States — first from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from largely African countries. Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all."

3.  Biden called for protecting the federal workforce by requiring mask-wearing.

     "It is the policy of my administration to halt the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures. Such measures include wearing masks when around others, physical distancing, and other related precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives."

4. He recommitted the country to the Paris Climate Accord:

     Trump announced in 2017 that the U.S. would abandon the agreement, in which countries set emissions reduction goals. The aim is to suppress global warming. 
     Biden's proclamation embraces the agreement: "I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the Paris Agreement, done at Paris on December 12, 2015, do hereby accept the said Agreement and every article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America."

5. He announced that the U.S. would rejoin the World Health Organization:

    Trump withdrew from WHO in May 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic raged. While various policymakers have noted systemic problems with WHO, they objected to the decision to abandon the organization. (See a story published by CNN in July.)
     In a letter to António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, Biden revoked the Trump administration's withdrawal from the WHO. "This letter constitutes a retraction by the government of the United States of the letter dated July 6, 2020, notifying you that the government of the United States intended to withdraw from the World Health Organization, effective July 6, 2021.  The United States intends to remain a member of the World Health Organization. 
   "The WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security. The United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security."


      What are executive orders?