President-elect Joe Biden has ambitious plans for addressing the COVID-19 crisis immediately upon taking office, already developing executive actions that will kickstart the economic recovery and undo Trump’s sabotage across government. It’s the tallest order any incoming president has faced since FDR took office in the Great Depression, made even more complex because it’s a public health crisis, economic crisis, and racial disparity crisis being handed over by an administration that not only didn’t adequately address any of those issues, it purposefully made them all worse.
CNN reports that its sources in Biden’s transition team say that he has two tracks of action in the works: “the passage of a broad economic aid package and, where legislation is not necessary, a series of executive actions aimed at advancing his priorities. Containing the Covid-19 pandemic, launching an economic recovery and tackling racial inequality are his most urgent priorities.” The pandemic, however, is the top concern. Getting the upcoming vaccines distributed is a massive undertaking on its own, with a federal government that’s been gutted by Trump and states that have been starved of funding and of revenue. Ramping up all federal, state, and local public health entities to do this job is going to be a big lift, not to mention just the logistics of getting the vaccines delivered. On top of that, there’s got to be a public service campaign to convince people to take the vaccine.
Biden has a surprising ally in the House for his ambitious plans: Rep. Richard Neal, who’s at the helm of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. He’s looking at least $4 trillion in a combined pandemic, climate change, and infrastructure package. Neal has not been known as an aggressive legislator, so this is helpful. Biden needs that ally, because in the Senate—even with two new senators for Georgia, if Democrats win those seats—it’s going to be touch and go to get a 50-50 Senate on board.
The good news is that there are unilateral actions he can take and boy howdy, did Trump pave the way for that. That includes, Biden told NBC News last week, rolling back Trump’s “very damaging” executive actions, particularly his climate sabotage, and rebuilding the Environmental Protection Agency that Trump has “eviscerated.” Biden is also considering a push from Sens. Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren to cancel as much as $50,000 per person in student debt.
He’ll begin cleaning up the Department of Justice with an executive order “directing that no White House staff or any member of his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason.” He’ll rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization.
So, yeah. He’s got his hands full, even not knowing what in the hell Trump has planned for the next 49 days. Hopefully just lots of golf.