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Politics updates: Biden, Harris volunteer for MLK Day as Trump signs 3 executive orders

  • January 19, 2021

pardons and commutations that could reach more than 100 names.

–David Jackson

Biden, Harris tout MLK service at part of healing, ‘duty’

Biden and his family encouraged Americans to join them in volunteer work and acts of service on MLK Day, the only federal holiday to also be designated as a day of service.

“Service is a fitting way to start to heal, unite, and rebuild this country we love,” Biden encouraged in an email from the inaugural committee. Biden said his family was focused on supporting COVID-19 relief efforts. “I hope you’ll join us today on the National Day of Service and make a difference in your communities.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also took part in the Day of Service.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris waves as she arrives to pack grocery bags for those in need of food while volunteering in the National Day of Service, Jan. 18, 2021, at Martha's Table in southeast Washington, D.C.

“My mother taught me that service to others not only gives life purpose and meaning, it’s part of the duty each of us has as members of a community,” Harris tweeted Monday.

Harris also stepped down from her Senate seat Monday ahead of her swearing in as vice president. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is set to be sworn in as her replacement.

President Donald Trump does not have any acts of service on his agenda for Monday.

—Matthew Brown

Biden taps Wall Street watchdogs Gary Gensler, Rohit Chopra

Biden on Monday nominated two former financial regulators from President Barack Obama’s administration to lead two agencies, signaling a shift to tougher oversight of the financial industry after President Donald Trump rolled back regulations.

Gary Gensler, a progressive champion of Wall Street reform, is Biden’s pick as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Biden also named Rohit Chopra director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, tapping a strong consumer advocate who worked with Sen. Elizabeth Warren to establish the agency in 2010.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, left and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., talk Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston.

Gensler chaired the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 2009 to 2014, leading the Obama’s administration’s efforts to reform the derivatives market following the financial crisis. Gensler, who is also a Warren ally, is currently a professor of the Practice of Global Economics and Management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

A former Goldman Sachs partner who transformed into an advocate of stronger regulations over big banks, Gensler served as chairman of the Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission from 2017 to 2019 and worked as chief financial officer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign.

Chopra, a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission appointed in 2018, was the assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when it launched under Warren’s leadership following the 2010 passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. He led the agency’s efforts on student loans and was later named the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman.

As commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, Chopra pushed for has pushed for “aggressive remedies against lawbreaking companies, especially repeat offenders,” the Biden transition team said in a statement, and increased scrutiny over large technology firms.

The pick garnered immediate praise from consumer advocacy organizations.

“Financial predators, watch out,” the consumer rights nonprofit Public Citizen said in a statement, adding that Chopra has “proven himself a dedicated consumer champion and passionate defender of Main Street Americans against corporate wrongdoing.”

“Consumers can rest just a little bit easier knowing that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will not just be on their side, but aggressively establishing rules to stop ripoffs and enforcing the rules against financial cheats and scamsters.”

—Joey Garrison

What’s ahead for inauguration week?

  • Confirmation hearings start Tuesday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, for Biden’s director of national intelligence nominee Avril Haines and secretary of state pick Antony Blinken
  • A memorial lighting ceremony for the nearly 400,000 American lives lost to COVID-19 will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday according to Biden’s inaugural committee
  • Biden will be sworn in at noon Wednesday on the Capitol steps, under clear skies and heavy security.
  • Harris will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the Capitol.
  • Trump will leave the White House Wednesday morning, before Biden’s inauguration rather than attending.
  • Instead of the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, Biden’s inauguration will feature a virtual “Parade Across America” livestreamed starting at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday.
  • A 90-minute “Celebrating America” special will air live at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday featuring Garth Brooks, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Hanks and other entertainers.

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