Joe Biden plans to move quickly to implement his agenda by issuing a series of executive orders addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and other challenges, starting Wednesday as he takes office as the 46th president in a fortified capital city.
The Senate, meanwhile, will begin the process of considering his Cabinet selections with a series of confirmation hearings beginning Tuesday.
In a memo to incoming White House staff, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, said the dozens of executive orders, memos and directives the president will release between his inauguration on Wednesday and Feb. 1 “would 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.”
The memo provided little detail on the planned measures, but one of a dozen planned for Wednesday includes an action to rejoin the Paris climate agreement.
As a new president taking over from a president of the opposite party, Biden also is expected to issue a freeze on regulations issued in the final days of the Trump administration. Such implementation delays give the new departments and agencies time to staff up with political appointees to review and act on the past administration's actions.
The inauguration ceremony will take place in the usual setting, the west front of the Capital, but with a limited audience this year due to the pandemic and in a city swarming with more than 20,000 National Guardsman brought in following the Jan. 6 riots by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump. The Capitol complex itself is surrounded by fencing topped with concertina wire, a prelude to more permanent security measures expected to be implemented later.
Biden's inaugural address will lay out "his vision to defeat the pandemic, build back better, and unify and heal the nation," according to his transition team.
Instead of the usual inaugural balls, which were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, actor Tom Hanks on Wednesday night will host a prime-time program called "Celebrating America." that will "showcase the American people’s resilience, heroism, and unified commitment to coming together as a nation to heal and rebuild," according to the transition office. Entertainers including the Foo Fighters, John Legend, and Bruce Springsteen will perform from locations around the country.
On Tuesday, several Senate committees, including Finance and Homeland Security, will be holding the confirmation hearings for Biden's Cabinet picks.
Agricultural groups who rely on farmworkers are pushing for the Senate Homeland Security Committee to swiftly confirm Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s pick to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Customs and Border Protection office responsible for inspection of agricultural imports at ports and airports, and Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes H-2A visa applications. Mayorkas ran U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013
Mayorkas "has the requisite background, agency mission and issue knowledge to provide serious and stable leadership at the helm of DHS," according to a letter signed by numerous farm groups, including the National Council of Agricultural Employers, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, United Fresh Produce Association and Western Growers.
The Senate Finance Committee will have a hearing for Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen. The Wall Street Journal reported that Yellen will tell the senators that the value of the dollar should be determined by the markets and that the Biden administration will not attempt to weaken the dollar to get a trade advantage.
The Foreign Relations Committee will hear from Antony Blinken, Biden's pick for Secretary of State. On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee will have its hearing for Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s pick to head the Department of Transportation.
The Senate Agriculture Committee has not scheduled a hearing for Secretary of Agriculture designate Tom Vilsack.
Still up in the air: The timing for the Senate to take up the impeachment article approved in the House last week, following the riot on the Capitol. The House has yet to deliver the impeachment papers to the Senate.
In the weekly Democratic address, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer of New York said the impeachment trial would be "soon."
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"Donald Trump remains a threat to our democracy and will be held accountable for what he’s done, whether or not he’s president during trial," Schumer said.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa told reporters last week that a Senate trial could hurt Biden by delaying his agenda. Biden last week proposed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that is supposed to be his top priority for Congress to consider.
Without the impeachment trial, "we could immediately get to work on approving cabinet nominees and his agenda. So, anything that detracts from that particularly in the first hundred days, seems to be detracting from what Biden said he wants to do (which is) unite the nation,” Grassley said.
Here’s a look at events happening this week:
Monday Jan. 18
Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday
Tuesday Jan. 19
National Biodiesel Conference and Expo, online through Thursday.
10 a.m. – Senate Finance Committee hearing on Janet Yellin to be treasury secretary, 106 Dirksen.
10 a.m. – Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Alejandro Mayorkas to be secretary of homeland security, 342 Dirksen.
2 p.m. – Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Antony Blinken to be secretary of state, Russell 301
Wednesday Jan. 20
Noon — President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office.
Thursday Jan. 21
10 a.m. — Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Pete Buttigieg to be transportation secretary, 253 Russell.
Friday Jan. 22
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