By Anne Walker | Staff Writer
On Wednesday, shortly after the president’s inauguration, the Biden administration began implementing a number of initiatives from Biden’s campaign speeches, Twitter announcements and plans posted on the Biden-Harris transition website. These initiatives include goals for Inauguration Day, Biden’s first 10 days in office and the first 100 days of the Biden administration.
On Saturday, in a memo to the incoming White House senior staff, then-soon-to-be White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain announced that Biden would initiate his presidency by signing around 12 executive actions to address four crises. Klain identified these as “the COVID-19 crisis, the resulting economic crisis, the climate crisis and a racial equity crisis.”
These executive actions include recommitting the US to the Paris Climate Accord, ending the Trump administration’s “Muslim Ban,” reversing America’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) and extending the deferral of student loan payments.
Last March, Biden called the government to forgive at least $10,000 of student debt; however, his current relief plan excludes any reference to student debt forgiveness.
In the memo, Klain also acknowledged that “full achievement of the Biden-Harris Administration’s policy objectives requires not just the executive actions the president-elect has promised to take, but also robust Congressional action.”
However, the Democrats’ slim majority in Congress might make the administration’s ability to carry out its many policy ideas a challenge.
According to the Associated Press, Biden will send an immigration bill to Congress to grant DACA recipients a path to citizenship as one of his first legislative proposals.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan, the American Rescue Plan, is one of the new administration’s proposals that may meet significant resistance in Congress. The legislation will require the support of 10 Republican senators to pass.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) responded to Biden’s trillion-dollar plan on Jan. 14, tweeting: “Remember that a bipartisan $900 billion #COVID19 relief bill became law just 18 days ago.”
The American Rescue Plan’s proposal for a federal $15 minimum wage also is sure to receive pushback from Republican lawmakers. This would increase wages for low income workers, including many Baylor students who currently work minimum wage jobs.
Dr. Stephen Gardner, Herman Brown Professor of Economics and director for Baylor’s McBride Center for International Business, explained that economists have researched the benefits of a higher national minimum wage for over a decade. According to Gardner, since many businesses in Waco, including Target, “are all offering a $15 minimum wage already,” the effects of this wage increase on unemployment would be relatively small.
Some Republican senators expressed openness to other elements of the American Rescue Plan. Six Texas representatives voted in favor of $2,000 stimulus checks in December, and may support the $1,400-per-person direct payments included in the relief act.
The American Rescue Plan also responds to the coronavirus pandemic with plans to expand the nation’s testing and vaccination capabilities. In the first 100 days of his administration, President Biden will initiate a surge of vaccinations with the objective of administering 100 million shots.
The relief bill designates $50 billion to augment coronavirus testing in the U.S., including at schools, which Biden intends to reopen within his first 100 days.
Dr. Kathy Krey, director of research and administration for the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, emphasized the significance of reopening schools to address child food insecurity.
“I think reopening schools is really important in order to ensure nutrition access . . . for so many children in this nation and this state who rely on school meals in order to get their nutrition and dietary needs met,” Key said.
Krey also highlighted the importance of new food programs, such as the Meals-to-You program that Baylor runs with support from the Department of Agriculture. She stated that along with reopening schools, “continuing some of these innovative programs, like Meals-to-You . . . is really the best way to ensure that children locally and in the state have access to food.”
In a speech on Jan. 14, Biden claimed that the American Rescue Plan would “lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half.”
Krey highlighted the American Rescue Plan’s inclusion of a temporary increase in child tax credits, explaining, “revising the tax credit is . . . universally seen as a very effective remedy for families with children that are really struggling right now.”
The Biden administration expects to fund the $1.9 trillion plan through increasing the federal deficit instead of cutting budget spending or raising taxes. Biden acknowledged the high cost of his plan, admitting, “I know what I just described will not come cheaply. But failing to do so will cost us dearly. The consensus among leading economists is we simply cannot afford not to do it.”
Gardner agreed that America’s economic situation warranted this amount of deficit spending, but explained, “after we get past this crisis stage, then I think we need to be looking at . . . how we maintain the long term growth and stability of the American economy.”
He suggested that after this period of economic emergency, Americans should tackle the question: “How do we move back towards a budget that, over business cycles, is generally . . . balanced?”
In addition to the American Rescue Act, President Biden hopes to gain bipartisan support to pass his Build Back Better recovery plan. The plan will support research and development in subjects, such as clean energy and artificial intelligence and initiate large-scale infrastructure projects