The hypothetical Biden administration
What could happen in the first 100 days
When Franklin D. Roosevelt assumed the presidency in 1933, he worked fast, and he went big. Within the first 100 days, he passed 15 New Deal programs to try to alleviate the Great Depression. Since his example, the first 100 days of a presidency has measured a new president’s early effectiveness.
“FDR had a rare historical moment and sweeping congressional victories to help him accomplish so much,” said Amy Black, a political science professor at Wheaton College. “Biden will not have a sweeping mandate and may not have a Democratic Senate to help him.”
Though President Donald Trump has not conceded the election and lawsuits about the vote in swing states are unresolved, former Vice President Joe Biden is already preparing to take over the White House on Jan. 20. If Republicans control the Senate and Democrats the House, it would slow down some of his efforts to enact his political agenda. But, as the last two presidents have shown, Biden could accomplish much via executive order in the face of a recalcitrant Congress.
Expect a Biden administration to issue orders overturning Trump’s policies on immigration, the environment, and abortion on day one. Biden plans to rejoin the Paris agreement to reduce carbon emissions. He wants to reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that protects from deportation about 650,000 people brought into the United States illegally as children. He also wants to overturn the travel ban in place against 13 countries.
Biden’s plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic calls for reinstating support for the World Health Organization, increasing coronavirus testing, and ramping up production of personal protective equipment through the Defense Production Act. He could also ask governors to implement a mask mandate in their states and mandate mask-wearing in federal buildings and during interstate travel. He said he would tell Congress to get a bipartisan bill with economic relief to his desk before the end of January.
Biden has appointed Ron Klain to serve as his White House chief of staff. Klain served as chief of staff to Biden and Al Gore during their vice presidencies. During the Obama administration, he worked on policies to address the Ebola epidemic. His first focus would be on the COVID-19 pandemic.
On abortion, Biden’s healthcare plan says he would push Congress to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which prevents most taxpayer dollars from paying for or subsidizing abortion. It also states he would work to “codify Roe v. Wade,” something that would require congressional approval.
The Mexico City policy, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid from supporting abortion overseas, is an easy target for executive action.
“[The] Mexico City Policy has always been dependent on the occupant of the White House,” said Tom McClusky with March for Life Action. “That will be gone in the first week.”
McClusky also said he expected a repeat of the clashes the Obama administration’s Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services had with states that defunded Planned Parenthood. Biden’s plan says his “Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion.” It refers to laws that promote any protections for babies and women such as parental consent for underage girls, mandatory waiting periods, and ultrasound requirements.
“They will waste no time tearing down pro-life victories once in office,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, wrote in an email to supporters.
Ramesh Ponnuru, a visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, said a Biden administration would also reverse orders and guidance that allowed organizations such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns, to object to Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.
“The Little Sisters of the Poor will be again forced to go to court in order to vindicate their conscience rights,” Ponnuru said.
Biden has promised to shepherd the Equality Act through Congress in his first 100 days in office. The act would add LGBT identities to the list of protected classes in the Civil Rights Act and expand the definition of public accommodation in ways that would increase restrictions on religious liberty. The Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County already accomplished some of the act’s goals.
But even if Democrats take control of the Senate by winning both Georgia seats in January runoffs and the vice president’s tie-breaking vote, they would not have the 60 Senate votes needed to break a filibuster. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also said last year he would not support the Equality Act, nor is he OK with getting rid of the filibuster for legislation, which is one way advocates have said the Equality Act and other ambitious legislation could clear Congress.
“[You] probably won’t see much from Congress in this area. The place to watch for [LGBT] issues will be the courts,” said Scott Lasley, the head of Western Kentucky University’s political science department.
To address economic concerns, Biden wants to partially roll back the Republican tax cut for businesses and high earners. The corporate tax rate would jump from 21 percent to 28 percent under Biden’s plan. Taxes would also increase for households making more than $400,000 a year.
But Ponnuru said passing tax increases absolutely depends on Democratic control of both chambers of Congress. Right now, even if Democrats do win both runoff elections in Georgia, they would have an incredibly slim majority.
“That plan is dead on arrival,” he said.
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