Biden focuses on the economy on second day in office

By Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 8:45 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021
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4:29 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Here's what you need to know about Biden's second full day in office

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Joe Biden is two full days in to his term and, as promised, he's not wasting any time getting to work.

Here's what you need to know about what is going on in Washington:

  • Focus on the economy: Biden signed two executive orders on Friday — one focused on expanding food assistance and delivering stimulus checks to very low-income Americans, and the other on raising the minimum wage to $15 for the federal workforce.
  • Other priorities: The executive orders build on a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan. It would fund a nationwide vaccination effort and provide direct economic relief, including $1,400 stimulus checks. 
  • Extremism: The Biden administration plans to take new actions to combat domestic violent extremism. This includes having the Office of the Director of National Intelligence compile a threat assessment and building the National Security Council’s ability to combat it.
  • Cabinet: The Senate voted to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of defense in Biden's administration. This makes Austin the first African American to run the Department of Defense.
  • Next week, impeachment: Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the article of impeachment will be delivered to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the Senate's impeachment trial of former President Trump.
4:20 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Young Black leaders ask Biden to create a youth BIPOC task force

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Young Black leaders are asking the Biden administration to create a BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) youth task force within the Office of Public Engagement to ensure that the organizers of color who helped elect Biden are able to continue to build their movement within the federal government.

“We’ve been receiving messages from the administration that they want to work with us,” Ty Hobson Powell, a 25-year-old Washington, DC-based activist who fought on the frontlines of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, told CNN.

“Now is the time,” he said. “Biden needs to prioritize young voices of color from day one.”

In addition to asking for a BIPOC task force, Hobson Powell and a cohort of other activists who met while organizing this summer — including Chelsea Miller, Nupol Kiazolu and Seun  Babalola — will be sending a series of demands to the Biden administration.

They are asking the Biden administration to take a number of specific racial justice measures within the first 100 days, including DC statehood, the elimination of a cash bail system, a federal ban on discrimination against hair styles and textures associated with race in academic and employment settings and recognizing Election Day as a federal holiday to encourage full participation in democracy.

A BIPOC task force would allow young people with first-hand experiences witnessing racial injustice, the Covid-19 crisis and economic turmoil that has followed, to advise the Biden administration on how to best communicate with and provide resources for their communities, the leaders say.

“Rather than being reactionary, we need to have a working relationship with the Biden administration to proactively tackle systemic racism in our country,” Miller said.

Kiazolu, who has has organized in Black communities since she was 12 years old, protested this past summer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, following the death of George Floyd and Louisville, Kentucky, against the death of Breonna Taylor. She also organized protests in New York City.

“Having been on the frontlines, we have experience and credentials to speak on fighting for resources, such as funds for mental health resources and preventative measures for the school to prison pipeline,” Kiazolu said.

Both Kiazolu and Miller stressed the importance of building the task within Biden’s first 100 days in office.

“If there’s anything we’ve seen from this past year, it’s the importance of urgency and showing up in real time to create change,” Kiazolu said.

“This isn’t an option. This is a necessity. This is as urgent as everything else that has been listed to take place in first 100 days,” Miller added.

4:16 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Stocks finish the week mixed over stimulus plan uncertainty

From CNN’s Paul R. La Monica

US stocks finished the week mixed, as the Dow and S&P 500 posted slight drops Friday and the Nasdaq edged up a bit. 

Stocks hit record highs earlier in the week following the inauguration of President Biden but investors are still nervous about Republican pushback to Biden’s stimulus plan, the spike in Covid-19 cases and concerns about the vaccine rollout.

Tech giants IBM and Intel also gave outlooks that disappointed investors. 

Here's where things closed:

  • The Dow fell 0.6%, or nearly 180 points.
  • The S&P 500 dropped 0.3%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.1%.

The indexes all posted solid gains during the holiday-shortened trading week.

3:50 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Biden boasts of bipartisan support for administration's $1.9 trillion plan

From CNN's DJ Judd 

In remarks before signing a series of executive orders aimed at providing fiscal relief from the Covid-19 pandemic, President Biden touted “bipartisan support from majority of American mayors and governors” for his American Rescue Plan, telling reporters, “businesses and labor organizations have together welcomed it as an urgent action is needed.” 

The plan, unveiled last week, is Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal that includes plans for bigger stimulus checks, more aid for the unemployed, the hungry and those facing eviction, additional support for small businesses, states and local governments, and increased funding for vaccinations and testing.

“Even President Trump's — President Trump's now, not some liberal organization, President Trump's top former economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, said 'he absolutely is in favor of this rescue plan.' This almost doesn't have a partisan piece to it,” Biden said.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain touted Hassett’s endorsement earlier today, tweeting the following:

3:56 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Biden signs executive orders on aid for low-income Americans and raising minimum wage for federal workforce

From CNN's Kate Sullivan 

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

 

President Biden signed two executive orders on Friday — one focused on expanding food assistance and delivering stimulus checks to very low-income Americans, and the other on raising the minimum wage to $15 for the federal workforce.

“Today I'm signing an executive order that directs the whole of government, a whole government effort to help millions of Americans who are badly hurting. It requires all federal agencies to do what they can do to provide relief to families, small business and communities, and in the days ahead I expect agencies to act,” Biden said. 

“A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. We're 400,000 dead, expected to reach well over 600,000. Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted. Job losses are mounting again. We need to act. No matter how you look at it, we need to act,” the President said. 

“If we act now our economy will be stronger in both the short and long run,” Biden said 

“If we act now, we'll be better able to compete with the world. If we act now we'll be better able to meet our moral obligations to one another as Americans,” the President said.

Watch here:

 

3:22 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Biden: "We cannot, will not, let people go hungry"

Pool
Pool

President Biden was emphatic in his support of people suffocating under the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We cannot, will not, let people go hungry. We cannot let people be evicted because of nothing they did themselves. We cannot watch people lose their jobs and we have to act. We have to act now. It's not just to meet the moral obligation to treat our fellow Americans with the dignity and respect they deserve," Biden said. "We must act decisively and boldly to grow the economy for all Americans, not just for tomorrow, but in the future."

Some context: The Department of Housing and Urban Development has extended its moratorium on single-family foreclosure and eviction after a request from the Biden administration on Wednesday.

The moratorium applies to HUD-insured or guaranteed single-family forward and reverse mortgages, except for those secured by legally vacant and abandoned properties.

As one of his first acts as president, Biden called on several federal departments and agencies to extend their bans on evictions and foreclosures for those affected by the coronavirus until at least the end of March.

One of several executive actions Biden took on Wednesday is a signal from the incoming administration that immediate action is needed in order to stabilize housing for the estimated 25 million renters and homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes.

The action seeks to extend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's federal moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent by two more months. The CDC's order first went into effect in September and the latest stimulus bill extended the protection until Jan. 31.

Watch here:

2:54 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

SOON: Biden addresses his administration's economic crisis response

President Biden is expected to soon speak about his administration's response to the economic crisis.

He's also scheduled to sign two executive actions today related to economic relief.

One is focused on expanding food assistance and delivering stimulus checks to very low-income Americans, and the other centers on raising the minimum wage to $15 for the federal workforce.

2:39 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Biden will keep Trump's top Taliban negotiator in place for now

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

The Biden administration is keeping former President Trump’s top envoy for Afghanistan peace talks, who has led regular negotiations with the Taliban, in place for the time being, according to three sources familiar with the matter. 

This move is not typical. Traditionally an incoming administration replaces politically appointed officials with their own team, particularly on foreign policy matters with such significance. Keeping the negotiator in place, at least for now, demonstrates the Biden team's initial commitment to maintaining adherence to the US-Taliban peace agreement until the new team reviews it in detail and fully develops their own Afghanistan policy.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, has been on the job for more than two years and was the primary Trump administration official who met with all of the stakeholders leading up to the signing of the peace agreement in Doha. At times he had a contentious relationship with Afghan government officials who viewed him as favoring the Taliban. 

Khalilzad is a diplomatic veteran, having served as a US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations. He is well known in foreign policy circles. Khalilzad's own deeply personal ties to Afghanistan, where he was born, and his free-wheeling approach to the negotiations have also been viewed as controversial by some and effective by others.

The State Department did not comment when asked about Khalilzad staying on board. 

During his confirmation hearing, Anthony Blinken, President Biden’s pick for secretary of State, reiterated Biden’s commitment to ending the war in Afghanistan but indicated that he had not yet been briefed on the US-Taliban agreement in a detailed way.

"We have to look carefully at what has actually been negotiated," Blinken said. "I haven't been privy to it yet, particularly with regard to the agreement that was reached in the first instance between the United States and the Taliban to understand fully what commitments were made or not made by the Taliban. And then to see where they get in their negotiations with the government of Afghanistan."

The Biden foreign policy team will immediately have to begin making decisions about the presence of US troops in the country. That is where things will get dicey: the US-Taliban agreement commits all US and NATO forces to leave the country by May, and that is at odds with a desire by Biden and his foreign policy team to keep residual force in Afghanistan.

"We want to end this so-called forever war. We want to bring our forces home. We want to retain some capacity to deal with any resurgence of terrorism which is what brought us there in the first place," Blinken said during his hearing. 

Extending the military mission also threatens to upend the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. This is because those peace talks – which have been slow to produce any results – were committed to by the Taliban a result of the US agreeing to a full withdrawal.

2:43 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Psaki says White House has asked the CDC to look into states possibly running out of vaccine doses

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

 Alex Wong/Getty Images
 Alex Wong/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House has asked the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to look into the possibility that states might run out of their allocated doses of the coronavirus vaccines.

Her comment comes after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will run out of doses sometime on Friday, until it receives the next shipment from the federal government.

“Well we've asked the CDC, to look into exactly this issue, and see what can be done. I don't have any update. Beyond that, but certainly we don't want any states to run out of access to vaccine,” Psaki said at Friday’s White House press briefing.

CNN has previously reported that sources say the Biden administration inherited a nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan, and Psaki said that the administration hopes work with localities to “avoid situations like this in the future.”

“We are hopeful that in the weeks ahead, as we get our sea legs here and our team starts to operationalize engagement with governors, engagement with local officials, to provide them a greater understanding of supply of what we are going to have access to, in a timeframe that's further in advance that we can avoid situations like this in the future,” she said.

Psaki said the administration has advocated in the past for releasing additional doses of the vaccines currently in reserve for patients second doses, but they have “deferred to health and medical experts.” She added that the administration has asked the CDC to “have the conversation with officials in New York and to look into what is possible.”

Watch here: