US presidential inauguration

Biden set to reverse Trump's policies on health, climate, wall

The Day One plans were just the start of a flurry of executive actions Biden would take soon after taking office.
The Day One plans were just the start of a flurry of executive actions Biden would take soon after taking office.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Mr Joe Biden was set to sign 15 executive actions after being sworn in as United States president yesterday, aides said, undoing policies put in place by outgoing President Donald Trump and making his first moves on the pandemic and climate change.

To address the "crises" of the pandemic, economy, climate change and racial inequity, Mr Biden was expected to sign the executive orders and memorandums in the Oval Office yesterday afternoon, and ask agencies to take steps in two additional areas, said incoming press secretary Jen Psaki.

The actions include a mask mandate on federal property and for federal employees, an order to establish a new White House office coordinating response to the coronavirus, and stopping the process of withdrawing from the World Health Organisation.

Mr Biden will also begin the process of re-entering the Paris climate accord and issue a sweeping order tackling climate change, including revoking the presidential permit granted to TC Energy Corp's controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The move brings Keystone's fate full circle, repeating a decision made in 2015 by President Barack Obama to keep the pipeline from crossing the border. Mr Trump reversed that in 2017 on his fourth full day in office despite the objections of environmental groups.

TC Energy said it was "disappointed" and would suspend work on the project, leading to the layoff of thousands of workers.

The decision overturns "an unprecedented, comprehensive regulatory process that lasted more than a decade and repeatedly concluded the pipeline would transport much-needed energy in an environmentally responsible way", said the Calgary-based company.

Among a raft of orders addressing immigration, Mr Biden will revoke Mr Trump's emergency declaration that helped fund the construction of a border wall, as well as end a travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries.

Mr Biden will also revoke Mr Trump's move to exclude undocumented immigrants from the US census count, advisers said. This will deal a final blow to an effort by Mr Trump to help Republicans win elections over the next decade.

The census order will ensure that all residents, regardless of immigration status, are included in the 10-year count that determines the size of congressional districts and how many Electoral College votes each state gets for the next decade.

Mr Trump's order, if successful, could have given Republicans a long advantage in elections, shifting population counts - and therefore political clout - from high-immigration states to low-immigration states.

The Day One plans were just the start of a flurry of executive actions Mr Biden would take soon after taking office, Ms Psaki added.

"In the coming days and weeks, we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the President-elect's promises to the American people," she said.

Further actions will include revoking a ban on transgender Americans serving in the military and reversing a policy that blocks US funding for programmes overseas linked to abortion.

On the economic front, Mr Biden will ask the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to extend moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures until the end of March, and the Department of Education to suspend student loan payments until the end of September.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2021, with the headline 'Biden set to reverse Trump's policies on health, climate, wall'. Subscribe