Biden to 'appeal to national unity' in inaugural address

17 January 2021, 18:42

President-elect Joe Biden will deliver an appeal to national unity when he is sworn in on Wednesday
President-elect Joe Biden will deliver an appeal to national unity when he is sworn in on Wednesday. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

President-elect Joe Biden will deliver an appeal to national unity when he is sworn in on Wednesday and plans immediate moves to undo some of President Donald Trump's most controversial policies, his incoming chief of staff has said.

Mr Biden is planning a series of executive actions in the first hours after his inauguration, an opening salvo in what is shaping up as a 10-day blitz of steps to reorient the country without waiting for Congress, aide Ron Klain said.

Mr Klain told CNN's State Of The Union that Mr Biden, in his inaugural address to the nation, would deliver "a message of moving this country forward. A message of unity. A message of getting things done".

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Mr Biden will end Mr Trump's restriction on immigration to the US from some Muslim-majority countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel.

These were among roughly a dozen actions Mr Biden would take on his first day in the White House, Mr Klain said on Saturday in a memo to senior staff.

Other actions would include extending the pause on student loan payments and actions meant to prevent evictions and foreclosures for those struggling during the pandemic.

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"These executive actions will deliver relief to the millions of Americans that are struggling in the face of these crises," Mr Klain said in the memo.

"President-elect Biden will take action - not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration - but also to start moving our country forward."

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Incoming White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Mr Biden would use his address to the American people to appeal to those frustrated by the rancour of Washington and to explain how his administration would tackle the nation's challenges.

"I think you can expect that this will be a moment where President-elect Biden will really work to try to turn the page on the divisiveness and the hatred over the last four years and really lay out a positive, optimistic vision for the country, and lay out a way - lay out a path forward that really calls on all of us to work together," she told Fox News Sunday.

Despite the flurry of expected executive action, "full achievement" of Mr Biden's goals would require Congress to act, Mr Klain wrote, and that included the 1.9 trillion US dollars virus relief bill that Mr Biden outlined last Thursday.

Mr Klain said that Mr Biden would also propose a comprehensive immigration bill to representatives on his first day in office.

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Some politicians have already balked at the aid bill's price tag, and immigration overhaul efforts over the past decade-and-a-half have all stalled in Congress. Mr Klain expressed optimism despite this.

"I think there are people in both parties we can work with to move this agenda forward," Mr Klain said on Sunday, noting that voters elected a 50-50 Senate, where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would serve as the tie-breaking vote.

"We're going to have to find ways to get Democrats and Republicans to work together to get things done."

Providing a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the US illegally would be part of Mr Biden's agenda, according to people briefed on his plans.

Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum and among those briefed, said immigrants would be put on an eight-year path. There would be a faster track for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields people from deportation who came to the US as children, and for those from strife-torn countries with temporary status.

On Thursday, the new president's second day in office, Mr Biden would sign orders related to the Covid-19 outbreak aimed at reopening schools and businesses and expanding virus testing, Mr Klain said.

The following day, Friday, would see action on providing economic relief to those suffering the economic costs of the pandemic.

In the following week, Mr Klain said Mr Biden would take additional actions relating to criminal justice reform, climate change and immigration - including a directive to speed the reuniting of families separated at the US-Mexico border under Mr Trump's policies.

More actions would be added, Mr Klain said, once they cleared legal review.

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Incoming presidents traditionally move swiftly to sign an array of executive actions when they take office. Mr Trump did the same, but he found many of his orders challenged and even rejected by courts.

Mr Klain maintained that Mr Biden should not suffer similar issues, saying "the legal theory behind them is well-founded and represents a restoration of an appropriate, constitutional role for the president".

Meanwhile, Mr Klain also said that the coronavirus pandemic would get worse before it got better, projecting a further 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the first five weeks of Mr Biden's administration.

Mr Klain told CNN that Mr Biden was inheriting a dire situation, saying that even with vaccines: "It's going to take a while to turn this around."

Mr Biden has set a goal of injecting 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine in his first 100 days in office, a goal Mr Klain said they were on target to meet.

Mr Klain added that he believed there was enough supply of the pair of vaccines currently granted emergency approval to ensure that those who had received their first dose would get the required second.

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