Stop. Stabilize. Then move — but in a vastly different direction.
President-elect Joe Biden is pledging a new path for the nation after Donald Trump’s four years in office. That starts with confronting a pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans and extends to sweeping plans on health care, education, immigration and more.
The 78-year-old Democrat has pledged immediate executive actions that would reverse Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and rescind the outgoing president's ban on immigration from certain Muslim nations.
His first legislative priority is a $1.9 trillion pandemic response package, but there are plans to send an immigration overhaul to Capitol Hill out of the gate, as well.
He's also pledged an aggressive outreach to American allies around the world who had strained relationships with Trump. And though one key initiative has been overshadowed as the pandemic has worsened, Biden hasn't backed away from his call to expand the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a public option, a government-insurance plan to compete alongside private insurers.
It's an unapologetically liberal program reflecting Biden's argument that the federal government exists to help solve big problems. Persuading enough voters and members of Congress to go along will test another core Biden belief: that he can unify the country into a governing consensus.
What a Biden presidency could look like:
ECONOMY, TAXES AND THE DEBT
Biden argues the economy cannot fully recover until the coronavirus is contained.
He argues that his $1.9 trillion response plan is necessary to avoid extended recession. Among other provisions, it would send Americans $1,400 relief checks, extend more generous unemployment benefits and moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and boost businesses. Biden also wants expanded child tax credits, child care assistance and a $15-an-hour minimum wage — a provision sure to draw fierce Republican opposition.
Biden acknowledges his call for deficit spending but says higher deficits in the near term will prevent damage that would not only harm individuals but also weaken the economy in ways that would be even worse for the national balance sheet.
He also calls his plan a down payment on his pledge to address wealth inequality that disproportionately affects nonwhite Americans. He plans a second major economic package later in 2021; that's when he'd likely ask Congress to consider his promised tax overhauls to roll back parts of the 2017 GOP tax rewrite benefiting corporations and the wealthy.
Biden wants a corporate income tax rate of 28% — lower than before but higher than now — and broad income and payroll tax increases for individuals with more than $400,000 of annual taxable income. That would generate an estimated $4 trillion or more over 10 years, money Biden would want steered toward his infrastructure, health care and energy programs.
Before Biden proposed his pandemic relief bill, an analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that Biden’s campaign proposals would increase the national debt by about $5.6 trillion over 10 years, though that would be a significantly slower rate of increase than what occurred under Trump.
The national debt now stands at more than $25 trillion.
Biden promises a more robust national coronavirus vaccination system. Ditching Trump’s strategy of putting most of the pandemic response on governors’ desks, Biden says he’ll marshal the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to distribute vaccines while using the nation's network of private pharmacies.
As he said as a candidate, Biden plans to invoke the Defense Production Act, aimed at the private sector, to increase vaccine supplies and related materials. The wartime law allows a president to direct the manufacture of critical goods.
Much of Biden’s plans depend on Congress approving financing, such as $130 billion to help schools reopen safely.
Beyond legislation, Biden will require masks on all federal property, urge governors and mayors to use their authority to impose mask mandates and ask Americans for 100 days of mask-wearing in an effort to curb the virus.
Biden also promises to deviate from Trump by putting science and medical advisers front and center to project a consistent message. Meanwhile, Biden will immediately have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization.
The incoming White House has tried to manage expectations. Biden said several times in recent weeks that the pandemic would likely get worse before any changes in policy and public health practices show up in COVID-19 statistics.
Biden wants to build on President Barack Obama's signature health care law through a “Medicare-like public option” to compete alongside private insurance markets for working-age Americans. He'd also increase premium subsidies many people already use.
Biden's approach could get a kick-start in the pandemic response bill by expanding subsidies for consumers using existing ACA exchanges. The big prize, a “public option,” remains a heavy lift in a closely divided Congress. Biden has not detailed when he'd ask Congress to consider the matter.
Biden estimates his public option would cost about $750 billion over 10 years. It still stops short of progressives' call for a government-run system to replace private insurance altogether.
The administration also must await a Supreme Court decision on the latest case challenging the 2010 health care law known as “Obamacare.”
On prescription drugs, Biden supports allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for government programs and private payers. He'd prohibit drug companies from raising prices faster than inflation for people covered by Medicare and other federal programs; and he'd cap initial prices for “specialty drugs” to treat serious illnesses.
Biden would limit annual out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare enrollees, a change Trump sought unsuccessfully in Congress. And Biden also wants to allow importation of prescription drugs, subject to safety checks.
Biden plans to immediately reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allowed people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain as legal residents. He's also planning an Inauguration Day executive order rolling back Trump’s ban on certain Muslim immigrants and has pledged to rescind Trump's limits on asylum slots.
Additionally, Biden will send Congress, out of the gate, a complex immigration bill offering an eight-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status.
As a candidate, Biden called Trump's hard-line policies on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and promised to “undo the damage” while maintaining border enforcement. Notably, the outline of Biden's immigration bill doesn't deal much, if at all, with border enforcement. But his opening maneuver sets a flank with plenty of room to negotiate with Republicans.
Biden also pledged to end the Trump's “public charge rule,” which would deny visas or permanent residency to people who use public-aid programs. Biden has called for a 100-day freeze on deportations while considering long-term policies. Still, Biden would eventually restore an Obama-era policy of prioritizing removal of immigrants who have come to the U.S. illegally and have been convicted of crimes or pose a national security threat. Biden has said he would halt all funding for construction of new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border.
FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY
Biden's establishment credentials are most starkly different from Trump in the area of foreign policy. Biden mocked Trump's “America First” brand as “America alone” and promises to restore a more traditional post-World War II order.
He supports a strategy of fighting extremist militants abroad with U.S. special forces and airstrikes instead of planeloads of U.S. troops. That's a break from his support earlier in his political career for more sweeping U.S. military interventions, most notably the 2003 Iraq invasion. Biden has since called his Iraq vote in the Senate a mistake.
He was careful as a candidate never to rule out the use of force, but now leans directly into diplomacy to try to achieve solutions through alliances and global institutions.
Biden calls for increasing the Navy’s presence in the Asia-Pacific and strengthening alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and Indonesia. He joins Trump in wanting to end the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but thinks the U.S. should keep a small force in place to counter militant violence.
Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken is Biden's longest-serving foreign policy adviser and holds essentially the same worldview.
Both are strong supporters of NATO. Biden and Blinken warn that Moscow is chipping away at the foundation of Western democracy by trying to weaken NATO, divide the European Union and undermine the U.S. electoral system.
Biden believes Trump's abandonment of bilateral and international treaties such as the Iran nuclear deal have led other nations to doubt Washington’s word. Biden wants to invite all democratic nations to a summit during his first year to discuss how to fight corruption, thwart authoritarianism and support human rights.
He claims “ironclad” support for Israel but wants to curb annexation and has backed a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. He says he'd keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem after Trump moved it from Tel Aviv.
On North Korea, Biden criticized Trump for engaging directly with Kim Jong Un, saying it gave legitimacy to the authoritarian leader without curbing his nuclear program.
Biden also wants to see the U.S. close its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Obama pushed the same and never got it done.
Beyond immediately rejoining the Paris climate agreement, Biden has proposed a $2 trillion push to slow global warming by throttling back the burning of fossil fuels, aiming to make the nation’s power plants, vehicles, mass transport systems and buildings more fuel efficient and less dependent on oil, gas and coal.
Parts of his program could be included in the second sweeping legislative package Biden plans after the initial emergency pandemic legislation.
Biden says his administration would ban new permits for oil and gas production on federal lands, though he says he does not support a fracking ban.
Biden’s public health and environmental platform also calls for reversing the Trump administration’s slowdown of enforcement against polluters, which in several categories has fallen to the lowest point in decades. That would include establishing a climate and environmental justice division within the Justice Department. Biden says he would support climate lawsuits targeting fossil fuel-related industries.
Biden has proposed tripling the federal Title I program for low-income public schools, with a requirement that schools provide competitive pay and benefits to teachers. He wants to ban federal money for for-profit charter schools and provide new dollars to public charters only if they serve needy students. He opposes voucher programs, in which public money is used to pay for private-school education. He also wants to restore federal rules, rolled back under Trump, that denied federal money to for-profit colleges that left students with heavy debts and unable to find jobs.
Biden supports making two years of community college free, with public four-year colleges free for families with incomes below $125,000. His proposed student loan overhaul would not require repayment for people who make less than $25,000 a year and would limit payments to 5% of discretionary income for others.
Among the measures in his COVID-19 response plan, Biden calls for extending current freezes on student loan payments and debt accrual.
Long term, Biden proposes a $70 billion increase in funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and other schools that serve underrepresented students.
Biden supports abortion rights and has said he would nominate federal judges who back the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. He's also said he'd support a federal statute legalizing abortion if the Supreme Court's conservative majority strikes down Roe.
Biden committed to rescinding Trump’s family planning rule, which prompted many clinics to leave the federal Title X program providing birth control and medical care for low-income women.
In a personal reversal, Biden now supports repeal of the Hyde Amendment, opening the way for federal programs, including his prospective public option, to pay for abortions.
Biden's proposals would expand benefits, raise taxes for upper-income people and add some years of solvency.
He would revamp Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment by linking it to an inflation index tied more directly to older Americans' expenses. He would increase minimum benefits for lower-income retirees, addressing financial hardship among the elderly.
Biden wants to raise Social Security taxes by applying the payroll tax to earnings above $400,000. The 12.4% tax, split between an employee and employer, now applies only to the first $137,700 of a worker's wages. The tax increase would pay for Biden’s proposed benefit expansions and extend the life of program’s trust fund by five years, to 2040, according to the nonpartisan Urban Institute.
Biden led efforts as a senator to establish the background check system now in use when people buy guns from a federal licensed dealer. He also helped pass a 10-year ban on a group of semi-automatic guns, or “assault weapons,” during the Clinton presidency.
Biden has promised to seek another ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Owners would have to register existing assault weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He would also support a program to buy back assault weapons.
Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one and would require background checks for all gun sales with limited exceptions, such as gifts between family members. Biden would also support prohibiting all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits and gun parts.
As with his public option plan for health insurance, it's not clear how Biden will prioritize gun legislation, and the prospects of getting major changes through the Senate are slim, at best.
Biden says he'd work with Congress to improve health services for women, the military’s fastest-growing subgroup, such as by placing at least one full-time women’s primary care physician at each Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical center.
He promises to provide $300 million to better understand the impact of traumatic brain injury and toxic exposures, hire more VA staff to cut down on office wait times for veterans at risk of suicide and continue the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration to stem homelessness.
Biden has joined a growing bipartisan embrace of “fair trade” abroad — a twist on decades of “free trade” talk as Republican and Democratic administrations alike expanded international trade. That, and some of his policy pitches, can make Biden seem almost protectionist, but he's well shy of Trump's approach.
Biden, like Trump, accuses China of violating international trade rules by subsidizing its companies and stealing U.S. intellectual property. Still, Biden doesn’t think Trump’s tariffs worked. He wants to join with allies to form a bulwark against Beijing.
Biden wants to juice U.S. manufacturing with $400 billion of federal government purchases (including pandemic supplies) from domestic companies over a four-year period. He wants $300 billion for U.S. technology firms’ research and development. Biden says the new domestic spending must come before any new international trade deals.
He pledges tough negotiations with China, the world’s other economic superpower, on trade and intellectual property matters. China, like the U.S., is not yet a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade agreement that Biden advocated for when he was vice president.
Biden won't escape Trump's shadow completely, given the many investigations and potential legal exposures facing the outgoing president. Biden said as a candidate that he wouldn't pardon Trump or his associates and that he'd leave federal investigations up to “an independent Justice Department.” Notably, some of Trump's legal exposure comes from state cases in New York. Biden will have no authority over any of those matters.
Joe Biden swears the oath of office at noon Wednesday to become the 46th president of the United States, taking the helm of a deeply divided nation and inheriting a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.
The very ceremony in which presidential power is transferred, a hallowed American democratic tradition, will serve as a jarring reminder of the challenges Biden faces: The inauguration unfolds at a U.S. Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago, encircled by security forces evocative of those in a war zone, and devoid of crowds because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stay home, Americans were exhorted, to prevent further spread of a surging virus that has claimed 400,000 American lives. Biden will look out over a capital city dotted with empty storefronts that attest to the pandemic’s deep economic toll and where summer protests laid bare the nation’s renewed reckoning on racial justice.
He will not be applauded — or likely even acknowledged — by his predecessor.
Flouting tradition, Donald Trump planned to depart Washington on Wednesday morning ahead of the inauguration rather than accompany his successor to the Capitol. Trump, awaiting his second impeachment trial, stoked grievance among his supporters with the lie that Biden’s win was illegitimate.
Biden, in his third run for the presidency, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. On his first day, Biden will take a series of executive actions — on the pandemic, climate, immigration and more — to undo the heart of Trump's agenda. He takes office with the bonds of the republic strained and the nation reeling from challenges that rival those faced by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“Biden will face a series of urgent, burning crises like we have not seen before, and they all have to be solved at once. It is very hard to find a parallel in history,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss. “I think we have been through a near-death experience as a democracy. Americans who will watch the new president be sworn in are now acutely aware of how fragile our democracy is and how much it needs to be protected.”
Biden will come to office with a well of empathy and resolve born by personal tragedy as well as a depth of experience forged from more than four decades in Washington. At age 78, he will be the oldest president inaugurated.
More history will be made at his side, as Kamala Harris becomes the first woman to become vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is also the first Black person and first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government.
The two will be sworn in during an inauguration ceremony with few parallels in history.
Tens of thousands of troops are on the streets to provide security precisely two weeks after a violent mob of Trump supporters, incited by the president, stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory.
The tense atmosphere evoked the 1861 inauguration of Lincoln, who was secretly transported to Washington to avoid assassins on the eve of the Civil War, or Roosevelt's inaugural in 1945, when he opted for a small, secure ceremony at the White House in the waning months of World War II.
Despite security warnings, Biden declined to move the ceremony indoors and instead will address a small, socially distant crowd on the West Front of the Capitol. Some of the traditional trappings of the quadrennial ceremony will remain.
The day will begin with a reach across the aisle after four years of bitter partisan battles under Trump. Biden invited Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leaders of the Senate and House, to join him at a morning Mass, along with Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leaders.
Once at the Capitol, Biden will be administered the oath by Chief Justice John Roberts; Harris will be sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The theme of Biden’s approximately 30-minute speech will be “America United,” and aides said it would be a call to set aside differences during a moment of national trial.
Biden will then oversee a “Pass in Review,” a military tradition that honors the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander in chief. Then, Biden, Harris and their spouses will be joined by a bipartisan trio of former presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Ceremony.
Later, Biden will join the end of a slimmed-down inaugural parade as he moves into the White House. Because of the pandemic, much of this year's parade will be a virtual affair featuring performances from around the nation.
In the evening, in lieu of the traditional glitzy balls that welcome a new president to Washington, Biden will take part in a televised concert that also marks the return of A-list celebrities to the White House orbit after they largely eschewed Trump. Among those in the lineup: Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem at the Capitol earlier in the day.
Trump will be the first president in more than a century to skip the inauguration of his successor. He planned his own farewell celebration at nearby Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for the final time as president for the flight to his Florida estate.
Trump will nonetheless shadow Biden’s first days in office.
Trump’s second impeachment trial could start as early as this week. That could test the ability of the Senate, poised to come under Democratic control, to balance impeachment proceedings with confirmation hearings and votes on Biden’s Cabinet choices.
Biden was eager to go big early, with an ambitious first 100 days that includes a push to speed up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass a $1.9 trillion virus relief package. On Day One, he’ll also send an immigration proposal to Capitol Hill that would create an eight-year path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally.
He also planned a 10-day blitz of executive orders on matters that don’t require congressional approval — a mix of substantive and symbolic steps to unwind the Trump years. Among the planned steps: rescinding travel restrictions on people from several predominantly Muslim countries; rejoining the Paris climate accord; issuing a mask mandate for those on federal property; and ordering agencies to figure out how to reunite children separated from their families after crossing the border.
The difficulties he faces are immense, to be mentioned in the same breath as Roosevelt taking office during the Great Depression or Obama, under whom Biden served eight years as vice president, during the economic collapse. And the solution may be similar.
“There is now, as there was in 1933, a vital need for leadership,” said presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, “for every national resource to be brought to bear to get the virus under control, to help produce and distribute the vaccines, to get vaccines into the arms of the people, to spur the economy to recover and get people back to work and to school.”
Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost.
His arrival coincided with the awful news that the U.S. death toll had surpassed 400,000 in the worst public health crisis in more than a century — a crisis Biden will now be charged with controlling.
“To heal we must remember,” the incoming president told the nation at a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Four hundred lights representing the pandemic’s victims were illuminated behind him around the monument’s Reflecting Pool.
“Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness ... and remember all who we lost,” Biden said.
The sober moment on the eve of Biden’s inauguration — typically a celebratory time in Washington when the nation marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation.
During his brief remarks, Biden faced the larger-than life statue of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War president who served as more than 600,000 Americans died. As he turned to walk away at the conclusion of the vigil, he faced the black granite wall listing the 58,000-plus Americans who perished in Vietnam.
Biden was joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who spoke of the collective anguish of the nation, a not-so-subtle admonishment of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has spoken sparingly about the pandemic in recent months.
“For many months we have grieved by ourselves,” said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice president when she’s sworn in. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.”
Beyond the pandemic, Biden faces no shortage of problems when he takes the reins at the White House. The nation is also on its economic heels because of soaring unemployment, there is deep political division and immediate concern about more violence following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak who took the train thousands of times between his home in Delaware and Washington during his decades in the Senate, had planned to take a train into Washington ahead of Wednesday’s Inauguration Day but scratched that plan in the aftermath of the Capitol riot.
He instead flew into Joint Base Andrews just outside the capital and then motorcaded into fortress D.C. — a city that’s been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing.
“These are dark times,” Biden told supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware. “But there’s always light.”
Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing Trump’s effort to leave the Paris climate accord, canceling Trump’s travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments.
Trump won’t be on hand as Biden is sworn in, the first outgoing president to entirely skip inaugural festivities since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago.
The White House released a farewell video from Trump just as Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed widespread fraud led to his election loss, extended “best wishes” to the incoming administration in his nearly 20-minute address but did not utter Biden’s name.
Trump also spent some of his last time in the White House huddled with advisers weighing final-hour pardons and grants of clemency. He planned to depart from Washington Wednesday morning in a grand airbase ceremony that he helped plan himself.
Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much as he had at Iowa rope lines at the start of his long campaign journey.
“I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks.
Inaugural organizers this week finished installing some 200,000 U.S., state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a display representing the American people who couldn’t come to the inauguration, which is tightly limited under security and Covid restrictions.
The display was also a reminder of all the president-elect faces as he looks to steer the nation through the pandemic with infections and deaths soaring.
Out of the starting gate, Biden and his team are intent on moving quickly to speed distribution of vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass his $1.9 trillion virus relief package, which includes quick payments to many people and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Biden also plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. That would be a major reversal from the Trump administration’s tight immigration policies.
Some leading Republican have already balked at Biden’s immigration plan. “There are many issues I think we can work cooperatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is often a central player in Senate immigration battles.
Also read:Trump won't attend Biden's inauguration
Many of Biden’s legislative ambitions could be tempered by the hard numbers he faces on Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the Senate and House. His hopes to press forward with an avalanche of legislation in his first 100 days could also be slowed by an impeachment trial of Trump.
As Biden made his way to Washington, five of his Cabinet picks were appearing Tuesday before Senate committees to begin confirmation hearings. Treasury nominee Janet Yellen, Defense nominee Lloyd Austin, Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines were being questioned.
Full Coverage: Biden Transition
Yellen urged lawmakers to embrace Biden’s virus relief package, arguing that “the smartest thing we can do is act big.”
Aides say Biden will use Wednesday’s inaugural address — one that will be delivered in front of an unusually small in-person group because of virus protocols and security concerns and is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes — to call for American unity and offer an optimistic message that Americans can get past the dark moment by working together.
To that end, he extended invitations to Congress’ top four Republican and Democratic leaders to attend Mass with him at St. Matthew’s Cathedral ahead of the inauguration ceremony.
Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden’s forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly.
In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals’ demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump’s restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end.
“It simply wouldn’t have happened without us,” Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden’s victory. “So we are now in a powerful position.”
Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that’s defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump’s impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden’s Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber’s top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him” on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress.
Biden’s proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden’s transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity.
With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package’s route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that’s helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday.
“A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“There are many issues I think we can work cooperatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles.
“Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement,” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet.
That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favors curbing immigration.
“Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run,” Krikorian said.
Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible.” He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8″ senators that helped win Senate approval.
Also read:Trump won't attend Biden's inauguration
Under Biden’s legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship.
For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.
Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries.
The legislation represents Biden’s bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump’s restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years.
Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades.
That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He’ll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending.
Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies.
As President Donald Trump entered the final year of his term last January, the U.S. recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Not to worry, Trump insisted, his administration had the virus “totally under control.”
Now, in his final hours in office, after a year of presidential denials of reality and responsibility, the pandemic’s U.S. death toll has eclipsed 400,000. And the loss of lives is accelerating.
“This is just one step on an ominous path of fatalities,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and one of many public health experts who contend the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis led to thousands of avoidable deaths.
“Everything about how it’s been managed has been infused with incompetence and dishonesty, and we’re paying a heavy price,” he said.
The 400,000-death toll, reported Tuesday by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of New Orleans, Cleveland or Tampa, Florida. It’s nearly equal to the number of American lives lost annually to strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu and pneumonia combined.
With more than 4,000 deaths recorded on some recent days — the most since the pandemic began — the toll by week’s end will probably surpass the number of Americans killed in World War II.
“We need to follow the science and the 400,000th death is shameful,” said Cliff Daniels, chief strategy officer for Methodist Hospital of Southern California, near Los Angeles. With its morgue full, the hospital has parked a refrigerated truck outside to hold the bodies of COVID-19 victims until funeral homes can retrieve them.
Also read:US COVID-19 cases hit over 14.5 mln
“It’s so incredibly, unimaginably sad that so many people have died that could have been avoided,” he said.
President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn in Wednesday, took part in an evening remembrance ceremony Tuesday near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The 400,000 dead were represented by 400 lights placed around the reflecting pool. The bell at the Washington National Cathedral tolled 400 times.
Other cities around the U.S. planned tributes as well. The Empire State Building was lit in “heartbeat” red — the same lighting used last year as a show of support for emergency workers at the height of the virus surge in New York City. The red lights pulsed as a visual heartbeat. In Salt Lake City, the bells at the Utah Capitol were to ring 15 times in honor of the more than 1,500 lives lost to COVID-19 in the state.
Also read:COVID-19 deaths in US top 65,000
The U.S. accounts for nearly 1 of every 5 virus deaths reported worldwide, far more than any other country despite its great wealth and medical resources.
The coronavirus would almost certainly have posed a grave crisis for any president given its rapid spread and power to kill, experts on public health and government said.
But Trump seemed to invest as much in battling public perceptions as he did in fighting the virus itself, repeatedly downplaying the threat and rejecting scientific expertise while fanning conflicts ignited by the outbreak.
As president he was singularly positioned to counsel Americans. Instead, he used his pulpit to spout theories — refuted by doctors — that taking unproven medicines or even injecting household disinfectant might save people from the virus.
The White House defended the administration this week.
“We grieve every single life lost to this pandemic, and thanks to the president’s leadership, Operation Warp Speed has led to the development of multiple safe and effective vaccines in record time, something many said would never happen,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
With deaths spiraling in the New York City area last spring, Trump declared “war” on the virus. But he was slow to invoke the Defense Production Act to secure desperately needed medical equipment. Then he sought to avoid responsibility for shortfalls, saying that the federal government was “merely a backup” for governors and legislatures.
“I think it is the first time in history that a president has declared a war and we have experienced a true national crisis and then dumped responsibility for it on the states,” said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care policy think tank.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tried to issue guidelines for reopening in May, Trump administration officials held them up and watered them down. As the months passed, Trump claimed he was smarter than the scientists and belittled experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top authority on infectious diseases.
“Why would you bench the CDC, the greatest fighting force of infectious disease in the world? Why would you call Tony Fauci a disaster?” asked Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
As governors came under pressure to reopen state economies, Trump pushed them to move faster, asserting falsely that the virus was fading. “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” he tweeted in April as angry protesters gathered at the state Capitol to oppose the Democratic governor’s stay-at-home restrictions. “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”
In Republican-led states like Arizona that allowed businesses to reopen, hospitals and morgues filled with virus victims.
“It led to the tragically sharp partisan divide we’ve seen in the country on COVID, and that has fundamental implications for where we are now, because it means the Biden administration can’t start over,” Altman said. “They can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”
In early October, when Trump himself contracted COVID-19, he ignored safety protocols, ordering up a motorcade so he could wave to supporters outside his hospital. Once released, he appeared on the White House balcony to take off his mask for the cameras, making light of health officials’ pleas for people to cover their faces.
“We’re rounding the corner,” Trump said of the battle with the virus during a debate with Biden in late October. “It’s going away.”
It isn’t. U.S. deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 100,000 in late May, then tripled by mid-December. Experts at the University of Washington project deaths will reach nearly 567,000 by May 1.
More than 120,000 patients with the virus are in the hospital in the U.S., according to the COVID Tracking Project, twice the number who filled wards during previous peaks. On a single day last week, the U.S. recorded more than 4,400 deaths.
While vaccine research funded by the administration as part of Warp Speed has proved successful, the campaign trumpeted by the White House to rapidly distribute and administer millions of shots has fallen well short of the early goals officials set.
“Young people are dying, young people who have their whole lives ahead of them,” said Mawata Kamara, a nurse at California’s San Leandro Hospital who is furious over the surging COVID-19 cases that have overwhelmed health care workers. “We could have done so much more.”
Many voters considered the federal government’s response to the pandemic a key factor in their vote: 39% said it was the single most important factor, and they overwhelmingly backed Biden over Trump, according to AP VoteCast.
But millions of others stood with him.
“Here you have a pandemic,” said Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant, “yet you have a massive percent of the population that doesn’t believe it exists.”