On day one, Biden takes US back to Paris climate accord, World Health Organization
On his first day in office on Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed executive orders that returned the US to the Paris Agreement on climate crisis and the World Health Organization, and ended the Muslim travel ban, reversing some of his predecessor Donald Trump’s most controversial decisions.
Biden signed 15 executive orders in all. The first — of the three he signed in the presence of reporters — mandated masks on federal property and interstate transportation, launching a “100 Day Masking Challenge”, reaffirming the highest property he is according to combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
The White House had earlier announced an immigration legislation — of particular interest to Indian aspirants for Green Cards, the permanent residency that are a stepping stone to citizenship — that allows H-1B dependents to work and protects their children from “aging out” of their parents’ visas when they turn 21, and “improves access” for foreign students of advanced STEM degrees to Green Cards, which allows permanent residency as a mandatory next step to citizenship.
“I thought, with the state of the nation today, there’s no time to waste, get to work immediately,” President Biden said before signing the orders, picking them up from a pile of folders — each of them containing an order — on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
Biden returned the US to the Paris Agreement that his former boss, President Barack Obama, had helped forge. But his predecessor, Trump, had pulled the US out of it claiming, wrongly, it favoured India and China at the expense of the US.
Biden’s decision to rejoin the WHO was also a significant move, recognising the importance of the global body in the middle of the deadliest pandemic the world had seen in more than 100 years. Trump had ordered the pullout to shift blame for his own mishandling of the epidemic on to the WHO, accusing it of covering up for China.
In her first daily news briefing, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US epidemiologist who was reviled by Trump and was sent death threats by the former president’s supporters, will lead the US delegation to the world body in America’s renewed engagement with the world body.
President Biden also told reporters Trump had left him a “generous” note but refused to share its content saying it was a private matter. He said he must speak first about it with Trump. But a spokesperson said there were no plans for him to call his predecessor.
Trump and Melania Trump had left the White House without waiting to receive their successor, violating one of the many rituals of transfer of power. They had also not attended Biden’s inauguration and Melania Trump had not given First Lady Jill Biden a customary tour of the White House.
The Bidens’ first day in the White House marked the return of a familiar style and manner of American politics and governance that had been overshadowed by Trump’s unpredictable and irascible brand of governance.
Nothing signified the change more than Biden’s instructions to nearly a thousand political appointees he swore in on web video call: “If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treated another colleague with disrespect — talk down to someone — I promise I will fire you on the spot. On the spot...Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency.”
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