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Biden Signs 15 Executive Actions, Many To Unravel Trump Policies

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In his inaugural address, President Biden called for an end to, quote, "this uncivil war."

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation, one nation.

INSKEEP: The new president was addressing a divided nation. He acknowledged that many Americans may well disagree with what he does in weeks and months to come. That's democracy, he said. But he asked those who did not support him in the election to take the measure of his heart first. He then took immediate action to reverse policies of President Trump's years. And White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is with us now to cover the Biden administration's early days. Franco, good morning.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What is the president doing today?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, the president is going to take steps on COVID-19. In her first briefing with reporters yesterday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki made it very clear that the coronavirus is Biden's top priority. Here's what she said.

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JEN PSAKI: The issue that he wakes up every day focused on is getting the pandemic under control. The issue he goes to bed every night focused on is getting the pandemic under control.

ORDOÑEZ: White House officials working on the COVID-19 response say that Biden plans to sign 10 orders and directives today to show he's, you know, taking charge. He wants to ensure that 100 million vaccines happen in his first 100 days in office. And a key part of that is going to be directing agencies to use the Defense Production Act to boost shortfalls of vaccines but also of testing and supplies. Biden also will say that there needs to be more guidance for schools to reopen and help for workplaces. And he'll direct FEMA to reimburse states for vaccines and testing supplies. And just another order is going to be to require masks on planes and buses and require travelers to show a negative COVID-19 test before they fly to the United States.

INSKEEP: I guess he disagreed with President Trump about so many things that there is no shortage of things to do. What did the president do in his first day in office yesterday?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. He signed 15 actions yesterday, focusing on, you know, big-picture top priorities, including the COVID-19 crisis, also climate change, racial equity and the economy. They included rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization. He also ended President Trump's travel ban affecting Muslim-majority nations, and he revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. Many of these immediate actions, though, as you know, were aimed at rolling back what former President Trump had done.

INSKEEP: These are also mostly actions that he can do by himself without Congress but not entirely - set up an immigration bill yesterday, for example. Can Congress do what Biden needs while also putting the ex-president on trial?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, Jen Psaki also was asked about this and whether impeachment hurts his message on unity. She didn't answer directly. On the one hand, she noted Biden's strong words against the president's role in inciting the violence at the Capitol. But she also stressed that what is most important is uniting the country. She basically said that Biden will allow Congress to decide the way forward on the impeachment trial. And she expressed confidence that senators could multitask while the president is focused on the pandemic and the economic crisis. But I mean, look, even Biden acknowledges the challenges are immense. You mentioned immigration. You know, he's also asking Congress for nearly $2 trillion for his COVID-19 relief plan. And even though Democrats control both chambers, he's going to need a lot of Republican support.

INSKEEP: Franco, thanks very much for the update, really appreciate it.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.