Joe Biden begins term with series of executive orders

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US President Joe Biden spent his first day in office taking a series of actions aimed to handle the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.

Some of his 15 executive orders reversed the actions of his predecessor, Donald Trump. Biden gave an order to “solidify” the protection of DACA (Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals in the US), and sent an immigration reform bill to Congress that provides a path for citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The president also issued an order to stop the construction of the wall on the border with Mexico, saying that “building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution,” and that it was “a waste of money.”

Other policies, such as an eviction moratorium and deferral of student loan payments, simply extended current policies enacted during the Trump presidency.

As expected, he also rejoined the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organization. Dr. Anthony Fauci represented the US at the organization’s Executive Board Meeting as chief medical adviser to Biden.

“The Biden Administration also intends to be fully engaged in advancing global health, supporting global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda, and building a healthier future for all people,” Fauci said.

Biden signed an additional 10 executive orders on Thursday, focused on COVID-19 response, including boosting vaccines, increasing testing, reopening schools and coordinating state and local authorities efforts. He called on Americans to wear masks and reiterated his plan to administrate 100 million vaccines during his first 100 days in office.

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Biden was expected to sign a series of executive orders related to the pandemic later on Thursday, including requiring mask-wearing in airports and on much public transportation, including trains, airplanes and intercity buses, officials said.

The administration will also expand vaccine manufacturing, and its power to purchase more vaccines by “fully leveraging contract authorities, including the Defense Production Act,” according to the plan.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the DPA would also be used to speed up delivery of protective gear.

The Trump administration had invoked the law, which grants the president broad authority to “expedite and expand the supply of resources from the US industrial base,” for protective gear, but never enacted it for testing or vaccine production.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki held a press briefing on Wednesday night and addressed a question about the prospects of returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran.

“The president has made clear that he believes that through follow-on diplomacy, the United States seeks to lengthen and strengthen nuclear constraints on Iran and address other issues of concern,” said Psaki. “Iran must resume compliance with significant nuclear constraints under the deal in order for that to proceed.”

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She said that some of Biden’s early rounds of conversations with foreign leaders “will be with partners and allies, and you would certainly anticipate that this would be part of the discussions.”

Democrats officially took control of the Senate on Wednesday, as Vice President Kamala Harris officiated at the swearing-in ceremony of Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla. Each Party now holds 50 seats in the chamber, and in case of a tie, Harris would cast the tie-breaking vote.

Ossoff, the first Jewish senator from Georgia, clutched a book of Hebrew scripture once owned by an Atlanta rabbi whose synagogue building was bombed by white supremacists in 1958, JTA reported.

Later on Wednesday, the Senate approved Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, the nation’s top intelligence job, making her the first of Biden’s nominees to be approved.

The vote was 84-10, with all the “no” votes coming from Republicans.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement congratulating Biden and Harris.

“In the spirit of President Biden’s inaugural address, we join in calling for national unity, the essence of which is mutual respect, appreciating diversity, and striving for the common good, as our country begins this new chapter,” the organization said in a statement. “History teaches us that the whole of the American people is greater than the sum of its parts. We are stronger when we stand together, and so we must work to find areas of consensus as we enter the Biden era. We look forward to working with the Biden Administration to continue to strengthen the US-Israel relationship, counter the growing threat posed by Iran, and combat the scourges of antisemitism and racism wherever they are found.”

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