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Big Plans: Team Biden sets out ambitious policy package for first 10 days in office

The new administration will push a bill to give a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal aliens and rejoin the Paris climate accord by executive order.

Updated: January 18, 2021 - 10:31am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Joe Biden, who spent months hunkered down in his basement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is rested and raring to go.

The president-elect takes office at noon on Wednesday, and he's already got a slew of actions he plans to take on the first days, and in the days that follow.

Ron Klain, who will serve as Biden's White House chief of staff, wrote in a memo released Saturday that Biden will focus on "the COVID-19 crisis, the resulting economic crisis, the climate crisis, and a racial equity crisis."

But he'll get to work immediately by taking some executive actions. On day one, Biden will rejoin the Paris climate agreement, extend a freeze on federal student loan payments, overturn Trump's ban on travel to the U.S. from several majority-Muslim countries and issue a "100-Day Masking Challenge" that will impose new mandates requiring masks on federal property and for interstate transportation.

"During the campaign, President-elect Biden pledged to take immediate action to start addressing these crises and build back better," Klain wrote in the memo. "As president, he will keep those promises and sign dozens of executive orders, presidential memoranda, and directives to Cabinet agencies in fulfillment of the promises he made."

On Thursday, Biden will issue several more executive orders, calling for the safe reopening of schools and businesses. Those executive actions will seek to "move aggressively to change the course of the COVID-19 crisis and safely re-open schools and businesses, including by taking action to mitigate spread through expanding testing, protecting workers, and establishing clear public health standards," Klain wrote.

Then on Friday, the president-elect will "direct his Cabinet agencies to take immediate action to deliver economic relief to working families bearing the brunt" of the pandemic, Klein wrote.

"These executive actions will deliver relief to the millions of Americans that are struggling in the face of these crises. President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward," wrote Klain.

There's more. Between Jan. 25 and Feb. 1, Biden will address climate change and criminal justice reform, and he will seek to reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under Trump's immigration policy. And Biden will take additional action on "Buy American" provisions in federal purchasing, Klain said.

"These actions will change the course of COVID-19, combat climate change, promote racial equity and support other underserved communities, and rebuild our economy in ways that strengthen the backbone of this country: the working men and women who built our nation," Klain wrote.

But in order for Biden to win "full achievement" of his expansive goals, he will need Congress to act, Klain wrote. Up first would be the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Biden outlined on Thursday. And Klain said Biden will also propose a comprehensive immigration reform bill on his first day. 

"Full achievement of the Biden-Harris Administration's policy objectives requires not just the executive actions the president-elect has promised to take, but also robust Congressional action," Klain wrote.

Biden hopes the COVID-19 relief package will include a plan to more than double the minimum wage to $15. On Thursday, Biden said: "People tell me that's going to be hard to pass. Florida just passed it — as divided as that state is — they just passed it. The rest of the country is ready to move as well. There should be a national minimum wage of $15 an hour."

Biden will also urge Congress to grant legal status to an estimated 11 million foreigners in the country illegally, according to the Associated Press.

"This really does represent a historic shift from Trump's anti-immigrant agenda that recognizes that all of the undocumented immigrants that are currently in the United States should be placed on a path to citizenship," Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, who was briefed on the bill, told the AP.

"The bill also would provide a shorter pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of people with temporary protected status and beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals who were brought to the U.S. as children, and probably also for certain front-line essential workers, vast numbers of whom are immigrants," Yahoo News reported.

"While the policy objectives in these executive actions are bold, I want to be clear: the legal theory behind them is well-founded and represents a restoration of an appropriate, constitutional role for the president," Klain said.

"Of course, these actions are just the start of our work," Klain said. "Much more will need to be done to fight COVID-19, build our economy back better, combat systemic racism and inequality, and address the existential threat of the climate crisis. But by February 1st, America will be moving in the right direction on all four of these challenges — and more — thanks to President-elect Joe Biden's leadership."