By Anubhuti Kumar, Nimarta Narang, and Zinnia Bukhari
On Saturday, Nov. 7, the 2020 American presidential election was called for former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris. It was a historic victory on multiple accounts. Kamala Harris will be the first woman and the first person of Black and South Asian heritage to hold the second-highest office in the country. While votes are still being counted and certified, it is known that the Biden/Harris ticket won with the largest popular vote margin in modern history, with the most votes of any presidential candidate ever. It wasn’t close, both in the electoral college or the popular vote. Both Georgia and Arizona, formerly considered deep red states, were battleground states for the first time in decades.
Elections, however, are just the beginning. A historic election, driven by an unprecedented turnout, also means the incoming Biden administration has received a strong mandate to act on the policies on which its platform stands. Biden’s transition team recently unveiled its top five priority areas on its official transition website: COVID-19, economic recovery, climate change, racial equity, and immigration, and we expect to see progress on these in the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency.
Biden’s transition team has already unveiled members of its COVID-19 task force, which includes former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Rich Bright, former head of the vaccine-development agency BARDA, and writer and surgeon Atul Gawande. Biden has said that the task force would work with state and local health officials on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Along with improved testing, safe reopening of schools, production of personal protective equipment, vaccine development, Biden has said that he will push for governors to issue a mask mandate in their states, along with a national mask mandate in federal buildings and on transportation. In terms of tackling pandemic-induced unemployment, Biden has called for the creation of a Public Health Jobs Corps to organize around 100,000 unemployed citizens to fight the virus.
President-Elect Biden has named climate change as one of his four top priority areas, which is in line with the messaging that Americans heard from the Biden-Harris camp on the campaign trail. Biden has repeatedly mentioned an intention to focus on building a clean energy infrastructure in the United States with a $1.7 trillion investment. While messaging around fracking hasn’t been as well-developed, Biden has made one thing abundantly clear – he intends to use an executive order to rejoin the Paris Agreement on day one of his presidency. Biden is expected to sign 10 climate-related executive orders within his first 100 days in office, some of which will set strict methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations, implement the Clean Air Act, as well as require public companies to disclose climate risks and greenhouse gas emission levels.
The Biden team has also vowed to bring together America’s top talent on climate change to drive innovation and develop technologies to mitigate the effects of climate change. This includes establishing the ARPA-C (Advanced Research Projects Agency), ensuring the U.S. reaches net-zero emissions by 2050, and revitalizing the energy sector by creating high-quality, middle class clean energy jobs in America. We can expect the announcement of his panel of expert advisors in the early weeks of his presidency, if not during the transition period itself.
Economic Recovery and Resilience
The economic crisis is closely tied to the COVID-19 pandemic currently raging across the United states – the quicker this public health crisis is brought under control, the more effective economic stimulus measures will be and the faster the economy will recover. The Biden-Harris team has stated that it doesn’t just intend to rebuild the economy, but build it back better, more resilient, and more equitable than it was before. Biden campaigned on a promise to mobilize American manufacturing, raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour, create clean energy jobs for the middle class, and secure immediate relief for working families and small businesses.
During the first 100 days of the administration, we can expect to see a reversal of some of the Trump tax cuts, as well scaling-up of unemployment insurance for the 11.1 million people out of work. The Biden campaign proposed a country-wide adoption of short-time compensation programs, where firms in distress will keep workers employed at reduced hours and the federal government will help make up the difference in wages.
We’ve also seen the Democrats trying to push a second wave of stimulus checks through a deadlocked Congress for months. Biden’s initial economic plan includes mention of a second round of stimulus payments “should conditions require,” but does not specify an amount, or whether qualifying factors would be amended in the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act. It remains to be seen whether the American people can expect a second round of stimulus checks during the early days of the Biden administration.
Biden’s decision to put a Black and South Asian American on the ticket evidenced his agenda to advance racial equity for Black, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), and Native American communities, many of whom turned out in record numbers for him at the polls. The Biden plan for Black America is a prominent part of his campaign platform, and lays out plans to address the social and economic costs of systemic racism against Black Americans. These include advancing economic mobility, bridging generational wealth and income gaps, and addressing racial inequality in the education and justice systems. A key legislative reform for the administration is to work with Congress to implement a nationwide ban on chokeholds.
We expect that in the first 100 days, the Biden administration will make diversity and accountability a key consideration when deciding cabinet positions and leadership across federal agencies, make a commitment to strengthen the Federal Reserve’s focus on racial economic gaps, and place Black and minority-owned ventures at the forefront of its “restart package” to help small businesses survive the current economic crisis. The package is expected to include more than $50 billion in public-private venture capital and expanded access to $100 billion in low-interest business loans for Black and brown entrepreneurs.
We’ve seen many affronts from President Trump’s immigration agenda this year alone – rejecting new DACA applicants and limiting protection, attempting to pass a rule in August forcing international college students to leave if they don’t take in-person classes, and a zero-tolerance policy that left more than 545 children separated at the border from their families. Biden is looking to undo these actions.
Biden hopes to rescind the travel and immigration restrictions on 13 African or predominantly-Muslim countries, reinstate the DACA program, and bring back Obama-era programs “that prioritized the deportation of immigrants with criminal convictions, recent border-crossers and those who entered the country illegally more than once.” Finally, he will discontinue the building of the border wall, or at least stop the funding from the Pentagon.
The first 100 days of an incoming administration mark a period of opportunity and action. Fresh off a victory and armed with a mandate for change, the first 100 days are an incoming president’s chance to leverage the momentum of public opinion and fulfill policy promises, therefore proving their place in office.
Stay tuned for part two in this series covering what we can expect from the Biden administration on the issues of education, election reform, caregiving, and gun safety.