Joe Biden has been President of the United States for nearly a month, but his political agenda is only just coming into focus in Washington, now that the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump are over.
Biden has largely zeroed in on economic relief and public health measures to get the country back on track amid the coronavirus pandemic. But many of his other priorities – such as health care, immigration and climate change – reflect his campaign trail talk that called for reversing Trump’s policies.
Biden’s agenda is sure to take center stage during his first official domestic trip as President – a visit to Milwaukee for a CNN town hall.
The “CNN Presidential Town Hall with Joe Biden” will air live from the Pabst Theater on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.
Coronavirus relief and public health
The top agenda item on Biden’s to-do list: getting a massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package through Congress and getting coronavirus vaccines into the arms of Americans.
With Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, Biden’s party has the upper hand for passing federal relief into law. Earlier in the negotiations process, Biden – who kicked off his presidency with calls for unity amid a time of division – indicated that he’d be willing to make some concessions to earn the support of some Republicans. But now a process is underway that will allow Democrats to pass the relief through the Senate with only 51 votes.
The Biden administration has also pressed forward with deploying a national coronavirus vaccine rollout strategy. The President and members of his administration have repeatedly claimed that their predecessors in the Trump administration had no plan.
The goal, the President and administration officials now say, is having enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of July.
Another priority related to the pandemic: reopening schools. But so far, Biden’s plan to open schools safely amid the pandemic has been met by a messy reality, with pushback from teachers unions and conflicting messages between public health officials and the administration.
Biden rejoined the Paris climate accords on day one of his presidency. He’s also rolled back some Trump-era policies perceived as detrimental toward the environment and created new roles focused on climate policy within his administration.
The President said on the campaign trail that he wants the US to transition to a 100% clean energy economy and reach net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
And at its heart, Biden and his administration have tied their efforts to combat climate change to ultimately creating millions of new “green jobs.”
Before Biden took office, sources familiar with his plans indicated that a sweeping infrastructure package would be a central legislative priority during his first year in office.
Now, inside the Biden White House, the President and his staff peg potential infrastructure investments as part of their larger agenda to rebuild the economy amid the pandemic.
Biden proposed a $2 trillion climate-focused infrastructure plan on the campaign trail, which would include spending on a US green energy infrastructure overhaul, new road and bridge construction, and a plan for expanding access to broadband. But a proposal like that won’t come to fruition unless it’s passed by Congress.
So far, the White House has signaled willingness to push an infrastructure package early in Biden’s term. And even as negotiations over the President’s coronavirus relief package continue, the White House is starting to dip into infrastructure talks.
Last week, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg met with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House to talk about infrastructure. And after the President met with governors and mayors last week to discuss Covid-19 relief, Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters that an infrastructure bill was brought up as “the next opportunity for bipartisanship.”
One of Biden’s first acts was signing a series of executive actions that undo several Trump administration immigration policies. The actions Biden signed early on in his presidency included preserving the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, halting border wall construction and reversing the travel ban from predominantly Muslim countries.
In the weeks after his swearing-in, the Biden administration proposed revising the number of refugees who can be admitted to the US this year to 62,500, a significant increase from the 15,000 cap put in place under Trump, and is preparing to admit migrants forced to remain in Mexico awaiting their US hearings under a controversial Trump-era policy.
But the administration, Biden has said, has a long way to go on immigration.
The President will need the approval of Congress to pass his administration’s immigration bill, which, among other investments in border security and foreign aid to Latin America, provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the US.
Biden has also said that he wants several health care policy measures, including improving the Affordable Care Act, strengthening Medicaid, revoking Trump-era abortion restrictions, reducing prescription drug costs and bolstering transgender health care rights.
The President signed an executive order that allows uninsured Americans to enroll in Affordable Care Act coverage for the next three months.
Some of the President’s health care priorities can be implemented through executive action, but other campaign promises related to the ACA – including instituting a government-backed public health care option – would require Congress to act.
Equity, inclusion and unity
Biden, who has selected what will be the most racially diverse Cabinet in history, has said he wants to be a unifier.
He’s sought to implement initiatives aimed at addressing equity and inclusion, signing orders aimed at shrinking the homeownership gap between people of color and White people, reversing a ban on most transgender Americans joining the military, and rebuking discrimination against Asian Americans amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
While Biden called for unity during his first weeks in office, his predecessor faced an impeachment trial in a divided Congress.
Biden has largely sought to avoid saying definitively whether Trump should have been convicted by the Senate, arguing that it was up to Congress to decide. But with impeachment proceedings now over, Biden could offer up his most substantive comments to date during Tuesday’s CNN town hall.