The Biden presidency Chapter I

Written by  //  March 31, 2021  //  Government & Governance, U.S.  //  No comments

The Biden-Harris Administration

Beyond bridges: Biden redefines infrastructure to add people
(AP) — Beyond roads and bridges, President Joe Biden is trying to redefine infrastructure not just as an investment in America the place, but in its workers, families and people.
The first phase of his “Build Back Better” package to be unveiled Wednesday in Pittsburgh would unleash $2 trillion in new spending on four main hard infrastructure categories — transportation; public water, health and broadband systems; community care for seniors; and innovation research and development, according to people familiar with the proposal.
The next phase would focus on soft infrastructure investments in child care, family tax credits and other domestic programs.
… Taken together, the administration’s approach is transforming the old ideas of infrastructure investment into a 21st century concept that includes developing the human capital of America’s population.

18 March
Becerra Confirmed As HHS Secretary in Closest Vote Yet
By Ed Kilgore
Becerra’s confirmation leaves just three Cabinet posts unfilled: secretary of Labor (former Boston mayor Marty Walsh is the nominee), director of the Office of Science and Technology (Biden has nominated pioneering geneticist Eric Lander), and director of the Office of Management and Budget. Withdrawn OMB nominee Neera Tanden represents the only casualty Biden has suffered in Cabinet confirmations, and he hasn’t named a replacement yet.

15 March
Biden under pressure to tap fewer political ambassadors than Trump, Obama
Donors are growing impatient as Biden delays naming coveted ambassador posts.
(Politico) The State Department is still waiting on the White House to signal which posts will be reserved for career diplomats, according to two current and former U.S. officials. The administration has yet to nominate people for an array of top State Department positions, including assistant secretaries and undersecretaries.
“We continue to engage in conversations with the White House and we’ve been gratified that our counterparts understand and value the importance of career professionals in senior roles, including ambassadorships,” a senior State Department official said when asked about the status of the situation.
During the Democratic primary, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on her rivals to pledge not to reward donors with ambassadorships. Biden refused to rule out the practice but said that anyone he appointed would be qualified and would not receive the nod based on their contributions.

11 March
Biden Tells Nation There Is Hope After a Devastating Year
In his first prime-time address from the White House, the president said that he would order states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1 and that a return to normalcy was possible by July 4.
President Biden signed a historic $1.9 trillion economic relief package into law Thursday afternoon, a day earlier than the White House had planned, ushering in new federal aid across the country amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Biden had originally been scheduled to sign the bill on Friday, after it had been reviewed again and printed. But the president and his advisers, aware that low- and middle-income Americans are desperate for the round of direct payments that the bill includes, moved up the timeline to Thursday afternoon.
David Brooks: Joe Biden Is a Transformational President
We’re seeing a policy realignment without a partisan realignment.

10 March
Congress Clears $1.9 Trillion Aid Bill, Sending It to Biden
The sweeping legislation had no support from Republican lawmakers, who called it bloated and unaffordable. It will deliver emergency aid and broader assistance to low- and middle-income Americans.
By a vote of 220 to 211, the House sent the measure to Mr. Biden for his signature, cementing one of the largest injections of federal aid since the Great Depression.
Merrick Garland Is Confirmed as Attorney General
The federal judge will take over a Justice Department battered during the Trump administration and confronting the threat from domestic extremism.
Marcia Fudge, Biden’s Pick to Lead HUD, Is Confirmed by Senate
Ms. Fudge faces as tough a task as any cabinet secretary: rebuilding a neglected agency central to the fight against racial inequity and poverty.
Representative Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio was confirmed as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday, becoming the first Black woman in decades to run an agency that will be at the forefront of the Biden administration’s efforts to fight racial inequity and poverty.
Senate Confirms Biden’s Pick to Lead E.P.A.
Michael S. Regan has said he intends to act aggressively in carrying out the president’s agenda of fighting climate change.
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Michael S. Regan, the former top environmental regulator for North Carolina, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and drive some of the Biden administration’s biggest climate and regulatory policies.
As administrator, Mr. Regan, who began his career at the E.P.A. and worked in environmental and renewable energy advocacy before becoming secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, will be tasked to rebuild an agency that lost thousands of employees under the Trump administration.

25 -27 February
House Democrats pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan despite setback on minimum wage
The president’s wide-ranging relief bill clears the House over unanimous GOP opposition, heads to Senate
The House approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan early Saturday and sent it to the Senate, as Democrats defied united GOP opposition to advance the massive relief package aimed at stabilizing the economy and boosting coronavirus vaccinations and testing.
The legislation, Biden’s first major agenda item, passed 219-212. Republicans unanimously opposed the bill, a strikingly partisan outcome just a month after the new president was inaugurated with calls for bipartisanship and unity. All but two Democrats voted in favor.
The action in the House came after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the $15 minimum wage in the legislation is not permitted under Senate rules. House Democrats included it anyway, and it’s not clear how the issue will get resolved.
Ahead of the vote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pledged that even if the Senate takes out the minimum-wage increase — the No. 1 priority for many liberals — the House will “absolutely” pass the revised legislation and send it to Biden to sign.
Top Senate Official Disqualifies Minimum Wage From Stimulus Plan
(NYT) The parliamentarian ruled that the provision, which would gradually increase the wage to $15 an hour, violated the strict budgetary rules that limit what can be included in the package. … Ms. MacDonough told Senate offices on Thursday that the provision as written violated the strict budgetary rules that limit what can be included in a reconciliation package. …reconciliation ensures speed, but it also comes with stringent rules that aim to prevent the process from being abused for policy initiatives that have no direct effect on the federal budget.

20 February
Biden’s top doctor nominee made more than $2 million doing pandemic consulting, speeches
Tapped to be surgeon general, Vivek Murthy’s financial entanglements draw scrutiny before his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday
(WaPo) Murthy, whose Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday, is expected to narrowly win confirmation to return to the role of surgeon general, six years after his first grueling confirmation battle as President Barack Obama’s nominee — and four years after President Donald Trump abruptly fired him, shortly after taking office. Murthy’s financial disclosures could complicate his candidacy given strong conservative opposition to him on other grounds — such as his longtime advocacy of treating gun violence as a public health problem. But Republicans have thus far stayed away from his finances and it’s unclear whether Democrats will raise the issue, despite repeatedly chastising Trump’s health nominees for their corporate ties

14 February
Biden Takes Center Stage With Ambitious Agenda as Trump’s Trial Ends
President Biden’s has said he hopes for bipartisan support, but his prospects are complicated by the fact that much of his agenda is aimed at dismantling the policies of his predecessor.
The president plans to quickly press for his $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, and then move on to infrastructure, immigration, climate change and other major priorities.
Mr. Biden has so far succeeded in pushing his agenda forward even amid the swirl of the impeachment, trial and acquittal of former President Donald J. Trump. House committees are already debating parts of the coronavirus relief legislation he calls the American Rescue Plan. Several of the president’s cabinet members have been confirmed despite the Trump drama. And Mr. Biden’s team is pressing lawmakers for quick action when senators return from a week-long recess.

Biden’s economic point man draws praise — and pushback
Allies laud Brian Deese’s leadership on the stimulus negotiations, but he’s rubbed some the wrong way.
The 42-year-old head of the National Economic Council, Deese has emerged as a major player in the early days of the administration. … Some GOP lawmakers have said they’d like to see other Biden administration officials get involved in the coronavirus relief talks, as well. Several noted that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin worked productively with Democrats to craft Congress’ previous coronavirus relief packages and said they’d be open to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen playing a similar role.

27 January
Biden, Emphasizing Job Creation, Signs Sweeping Climate Actions
The array of directives — touching on international relations, drilling policy, employment and national security, among other things — elevate climate change across every level of the federal government.
Biden Team Rushes to Take Over Government, and Oust Trump Loyalists
(NYT) When President Biden swore in a batch of recruits for his new administration in a teleconferenced ceremony late last week, it looked like the country’s biggest Zoom call. In fact, Mr. Biden was installing roughly 1,000 high-level officials in about a quarter of all of the available political appointee jobs in the federal government.

26 January
Antony J. Blinken is confirmed as secretary of state.
Blinken Takes Over at State Dept. With a Review of Trump’s Policies
The Senate confirmed Antony J. Blinken as secretary of state. He is looking to reverse the Trump administration’s confrontational approach to diplomacy.
Biden’s Cabinet and Senior Advisers
President Biden’s nominees are slowly making their way through Senate confirmation.
The Biden plan to be boring – programming the news coverage of their opening weeks in office through thematic days based around executive orders — each day involving “a slate of unilateral actions, a background briefing with reporters and a press appearance by a top aide, or, perhaps, the head honcho himself.”

24 January
Biden is firing some top Trump holdovers, but in some cases, his hands may be tied
The Biden team, showing a willingness to cut tenures short, moved quickly last week to dump several high-profile, Senate-confirmed Trump appointees whose terms extended beyond Inauguration Day — in some cases by several years. [Biden Has Already Fired Three of Trump’s Worst Appointees]
But other, lower-profile Trump loyalists, some of whom helped carry out his administration’s most controversial policies, are scattered throughout Biden’s government in permanent, senior positions. And identifying them, let alone dislodging them, could be difficult for the new leadership.

White House installs new leadership at federally-funded international broadcasters

Three days into the Biden administration and lots of commenters are noting the return of calm in the media, and the return of a sense of stability in the government. People are sleeping so much better that the word “slept” trended on Twitter the day after the inauguration.
Biden, a long-time institutionalist, seems to be trying scrupulously to restore the precise functions of different branches of government, as well as the nonpartisan civil bureaucracy that, so far, has protected our democracy from falling to a dictator.

22 January
Who is Lloyd Austin, America’s first Black defense secretary?
Austin’s confirmation followed back-to-back votes in the House and Senate Thursday that granted him a waiver to hold the position, as federal law requires individuals to wait seven years after retiring from active-duty service before holding the role of defense secretary

21 January
These are the executive orders Biden has signed so far
The new president signed 17 executive orders and other directives on the first day of his presidency in what administration officials have said is an initial wave of actions Biden will take in his first 10 days in office. Among them:
Executive order reversing U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO)
Executive order rejoining the Paris Climate Accords
Executive order revoking permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and stopping oil and pausing gas leasing at Arctic refuge
Proclamation cutting off funding for the border wall
Memorandum strengthening the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program
The Defining Battle of Biden’s Presidency Is Already Raging in the Senate
(New York) When the Democratic party lost Congress back in 2010, many of its core constituencies were left holding IOUs. Labor left the Obama era without card check, climate hawks got neither “cap” nor “trade,” immigrant-rights groups never collected on their promised path to citizenship, and advocates for gun control and myriad other progressive causes were similarly stiffed.
In the years since, the party’s debts to its coalition have only mounted. Among other things, Joe Biden enters office having promised to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, enact a wide array of collective-bargaining reforms, pass a new voting rights act, grant statehood to Washington, D.C., and put the U.S. on a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
But he will do none of this unless all 50 Senate Democrats agree to abolish the legislative filibuster.
Democrats shoot down McConnell’s filibuster gambit
Democrats are shooting down an effort by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to include protections for the legislative filibuster as part of a Senate power-sharing deal.
Biden ousts controversial head of US Agency for Global Media
Pack drew fire from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike for ignoring a subpoena to testify before a House panel over several controversies, including his widespread firings of the heads of multiple broadcast agencies and halting funds for the U.S. Open Technology Fund

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