From reversing President Donald Trump’s travel bans on several predominantly Muslim countries to rejoining the Paris climate change accord and extending pandemic-related limits on home evictions and student loan payments, President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled for an extremely hectic first day in office on Wednesday.
Executive orders are a powerful tool for the US presidency – Abraham Lincoln used it to signal the end of slavery and Harry Truman used it to desegregate the military. In the hours after Biden sets foot in the White House, he plans to use the same route to embark on a policy blitz designed to signal a clean break from the Trump administration.
As the spirit of hope and optimism surrounding the new presidency runs up against the urgency of overlapping global crises, Biden must walk in tandem with his global allies to quickly re-establish the powerful role of the US in the global order
These include issuing a mask mandate for all federal offices and ordering US agencies to reunite children separated from families after crossing the Mexico border. Biden also plans to send sweeping immigration legislation on his first day in office, providing a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people living in the US illegally.
Along with his pledge to vaccinate 100 million Americans for Covid-19 in his first 100 days, the implementation of this massive checklist of priorities would mark a defining moment of Biden’s presidency as well as his ability to forge bipartisan support in Congress.
With the coronavirus pandemic crippling the US, that flurry of decisive action will be a welcome relief from the days of chaos, disruptions and a deadly mob assault on the Capitol following the presidential election in November.
Setting the tone for presidency
Biden’s decisions on Day One must therefore set the tone for a presidency that seeks to reassure the international community that the US is back in the policy mainstream as a dependable partner, help rebuild the pandemic-hit global economy and swiftly restore America’s traditional support of global institutions such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It is equally important to ensure that in the eagerness to set up a clean slate, Team Biden must not rush into unilaterally changing policies of the previous administration which have proven to be effective and drawn up in consultation with global allies.
Whether it is in rejoining the Iran nuclear deal or reviewing the designation of Al Houthis as a terrorist group, the new White House must assess existing policies in an objective and non-partisan way and take into account the points of view of their key regional allies.
Indeed, those agreements and policies provide the Biden administration the perfect opportunity to engage with its partners and allies in making them even more robust and meaningful rather than altering their outcome or abandoning them altogether.
As the spirit of hope and optimism surrounding the new presidency runs up against the urgency of overlapping global crises, Biden must walk in tandem with his global allies to quickly re-establish the powerful role of the US in the global order.