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‘I solemnly swear:’ 5 things Biden needs to do as he takes office amid historic turmoil

  • January 19, 2021

USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll taken last week, a 52% majority said Biden faces the biggest crises of any president in memory. Just 6% thought he faced fewer crises than most new presidents. coronavirus pandemic is still growing, now taking the lives of as many as 4,000 Americans a day even as vaccines are being distributed. The economic consequences of the pandemic are reverberating, leaving millions out of work. Demands for racial justice continue to rise. A national manhunt is underway for members of the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to overturn the results of the election. thousands of armed troops, there to ensure the peace.

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Security around the National Mall is heightened ahead of inauguration Day on Jan. 13, 2021, in Washington..

“It’s more like a wartime inauguration than a normal inauguration,” said Alvin Tillery Jr., director of Northwestern University’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy.  “It’s going to look a lot more like FDR and the economic crisis of the Great Depression or Lyndon Johnson and the crisis of the civil rights movement.”

As a result, he said, Biden’s speech needs to be “a much more stirring defense of the institution of democracy” than the typical inauguration address – or the typical speech by Biden, usually a plain-spoken person.

incitement to insurrection, the second impeachment of his tenure. The Senate trial will begin soon after Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends the article of impeachment to the other side of the Capitol.

That will present challenges of both optics and logistics. Biden wants the Senate to quickly consider and confirm his nominees for the Cabinet and other senior posts, and he plans to begin dispatching prospective legislation to Capitol Hill on his first afternoon in office. As a practical matter, the Senate trial will compete for time and attention with those priorities.

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The second is symbolic. It’s hard for Biden to claim a fresh start when the previous president hasn’t left the stage. That said, Biden may need to get accustomed to that. While former presidents have generally made an effort to step away from the spotlight, at least for a while, there’s no indication that Trump plans to follow in those footsteps.

what Biden plans to do on the first day and the first 10 days of his tenure. They amount to a declaration of how different the new administration will be from the old one on immigration, the environment, international alliances, health care and more.

President- elect Joe Biden's inauguration festivities will begin soon, and here's everything you need to know.

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On Day One, according to a document first reported by Canadian CTV, Biden plans to rejoin the Paris climate accord, extend a moratorium on evictions and student-loan payments, rescind the Keystone XL pipeline, reverse Trump’s travel ban on mostly Muslim countries, and send a sweeping immigration bill to Congress.  

“They’ve got to hit the ground running,” said Princeton historian Kevin Kruse, co-author of “Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974,” published in 2019. “History shows us – most of these periods of reform, you get a two-year window” to get big things done. That was true for FDR’s most ambitious Great Society legislation and for Ronald Reagan’s conservative agenda. 

The party in power typically loses ground in the first midterm election of a president’s term. Which means that in 2022, Democrats risk losing their narrow majorities in the House and the Senate. 

proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, for instance, Biden needs to convince Congress to pass legislation and appropriate funds.

The Democratic majority in the House is the narrowest majority either party has held in two decades. The Senate is split 50-50, under Democratic control only because the vice president will be able to break ties. 

That means Biden will need united Democratic ranks and, at times, the support of at least a handful of Republicans. He’ll need to navigate between his party’s most progressive voices, generally from solidly blue territory, and the moderates from both parties who represent the nation’s purple states and districts.

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Kruse calls the notion that congressional Republicans will agree to compromise “naive,” citing President Barack Obama’s failed appeals across party lines during debate over the Affordable Care Act. But Barker said Biden’s long experience in the Senate and his personal demographics – a white, centrist, 78-year-old man born in Scranton, Pennsylvania – could help.

“If Biden cannot make a dent in this polarization, then who can?” the American University political scientist said. “If working-class Joe can’t gain their trust, then who can?”

Some of the early signs are problematic, though. In the new USA TODAY Poll, more than 7 in 10 Republicans said they didn’t believe Biden had been legitimately elected, a belief pressed by Trump and debunked by independent fact-checkers.

USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll: Americans, braced for violence at the inauguration, see democracy damaged after Trump

A fence surrounds Freedom Plaza as increased security measures are taken on Jan. 16, 2021, in Washington ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Biden takes office amid “a perfect storm – the pandemic, polarization, our economy and social-justice issues,” said Samar Ali, co-chair of Vanderbilt University’s Project on Unity and American Democracy. “We have a vaccine for one of those things. We don’t have a vaccine for the others.”

In his inaugural address and during his opening days, she said, Biden “needs to restore trust in democracy, governance and ourselves.”

No small task, that. 

Contributing: Sarah Elbeshbishi 

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