Joe Biden took office at noon Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States, appealing to the nation to end its “uncivil war” and reach across partisan and urban-lines to address the “cascading crises” facing the country, starting with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kamala Harris, who had earlier resigned as a senator from California, became the first woman and first Black and Asian vice president.
Quoting the words of Abraham Lincoln when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Biden pledged in his inaugural address that he was committed to unifying the country and that “my whole soul is in it.”
“Few people in our nation's history have been more challenged, or found a time more challenging or difficult, than the time we're in now,” Biden said, citing the pandemic, rising unemployment and racial injustice.
Appealing to people who voted for Donald Trump, Biden pledged to be "a president for all Americans.”
“We must end this uncivil wear that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal. We can do this. If we open our soul, instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility,” he said.
Biden said little about his policy plans, but he is expected to act quickly to reverse some of Trump’s executive actions and to carry out campaign promises. Even before he took the oath of office, his administration released an outline of the immigration reform bill he is sending to Capitol Hill.
He is scheduled to sign a series of executive orders late Wednesday afternoon to do such things as rejoin the Paris climate agreement and stop construction on the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Biden's appeal for unity will be tested almost immediately. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is moving ahead with an impeachment trial for Trump that could complicate two of Biden's priorities: Passing a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan and getting his nominees confirmed by the Senate.
As for Trump, he made his final public remarks about three hours before Biden’s swearing in and said he would “be back in some form.”
He touted his 2017 tax reform bill, saying “I hope they don’t raise your taxes. But if they do, I told you so!”
Trump also that despite the “horrible” coronavirus crisis, he had left Biden well-positioned to lead the country out of the pandemic. “They have the foundation to do something really spectacular,” Trump said.
Farm groups issued statements congratulating Biden and asserting their eagerness to work with the new administration on ag policy, immigration reform and other issues.
“The past several weeks have been difficult for all of America. We were saddened by the violence that threatened a peaceful transfer of power, but what we witnessed today is a hallmark of what has made this country an example for the rest of the world,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
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“Addressing the needs of America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities is important, including strengthening the farm bill, expanding trade and finding a fair solution to the farm labor shortage. We must extend broadband coverage to ensure rural families, businesses, schools and health care facilities can compete in today’s digital reality,” Duvall said.
Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, said co-ops supported Biden’s No. 1 priority of “taking every step necessary to beat back the COVID-19 pandemic and repairing the economic damage it has caused across the nation.
“Beyond that, we welcome working with the Administration on many of the priorities they have outlined in the past few weeks. Issues such as climate change and immigration reforms are ones that NCFC and their members have been leaders on; as work begins on them, it is critical that the voices of America’s farmers and ranchers are heard in the policymaking process," Conner said.
Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, said "Inaugurations represent new beginnings and new opportunities. This is especially important today, as we begin this journey at a time of turmoil that has intensified in recent months and weeks.”
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