Biden signs 17 executive orders, reversing policies from Trump’s presidency

Pres. Biden spent the first day of his presidency taking action, signing over a dozen executive orders.


Stern Matty

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Embassy Jerusalem.

Gillian Manning, Staff Writer

President Biden was sworn into office on Wednesday and within the first few hours of his presidency, he signed 17 executive orders.

After the inauguration ceremony, Biden made his way to the Oval Office to begin his presidential duties. He signed orders regarding COVID-19, climate change, immigration, student debt, and housing payments. Of the total 17 executive orders and actions Biden signed, 9 reverse policies from former President Trump. Biden had a much busier first day as a president than his modern predecessors; Obama did not sign any orders on his first day and Trump signed one. 

In his inaugural address, Biden stressed his goal to take action. Biden said, “We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility.”

The first executive order to be signed was a federal mask mandate which is part of his “100 days of masking” initiative where he is asking those residing in the U.S. to commit to wearing a mask for 100 days. The executive order mandates facial coverings and social distancing on all federal property and by government contractors. 

There was a second order signed in regards to COVID-19, creating the position of a COVID-19 Response Coordinator. Jeff Zients was appointed to this position and will report directly to Biden. Zients is not a scientist, but a former management consultant at Bain Consulting who worked under the Obama administration as the director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President on Economic Policy. 

Extensions were given on the moratoriums, temporary prohibitions, regarding evictions, foreclosures, and federal student loan payments. The pause on evictions and foreclosures is extended until March 31 and student loan payments until September 30. These could be extended again at a later date. 

Biden has reversed the U.S.’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Paris climate agreement. Dr. Anthony Fauci will be the U.S. representative for the WHO and the U.S. will have to wait 30 days before officially being back in the Paris Climate Agreement. 

The Presidential permit granted to the Keystone XL pipeline was revoked. The building of the Keystone oil pipeline has been debated due to how it could impact the environment and the surrounding wildlife. 

On Jan. 19, the Trump administration used its last day to approve leases for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but Biden put a moratorium on oil and natural gas leases within the site. 

The 1776 Commission, described by CNN as “a rebuttal to schools applying a more accurate history curriculum around slavery,” had been put in place by the Trump administration. Biden overturned it. 

In 2018, Trump declared a national emergency to receive funding for the border wall. Trump claimed that Mexico would pay for the construction but that has yet to happen, in fact, America has already spent $15 billion on its construction. Biden ended the national emergency and is pausing further construction until the finances are reviewed.  

The Trump administration made an effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census but Biden overturned that order, requiring non-citizens to be counted.

Biden reversed the travel ban on select predominantly Muslim countries including Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan. Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Yemen. The original ban had been put in place by the Trump administration in 2017. Biden overturned another one of Trump’s early executive orders; the original order declared that the roughly 11 million undocumented people in the United States were prioritized for deportation. 

Biden extended the temporary legal status of Liberians who fled to the U.S. until June 2022. 

The Trump administration unsuccessfully tried to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2017. Biden’s presidential proclamation protects DACA and calls on Congress to put in legislation that would allow a path of permanent, legal citizenship for DACA recipients (approximately 700,000 people).

Biden signed an executive order that ensures the federal government cannot discriminate against gender identity and sexual orientation in the workplace. 

One order is geared to increasing ethical behavior within the government. It requires that all people who are appointed to the executive branch sign an ethics pledge stating that they will act only in the public’s interest, they will not interfere with the Department of Justice or their investigations and that they will not use their time in public service for personal gain. 

The order also requires that those who sign will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists. For the first two years after being appointed, one cannot participate in any matter involving former employers or clients. 

Biden sat in the Oval Office, next to him the mountain of orders that were later signed, and said, “I think some of the things we’re gonna’ be doing are bold and vital and there’s no time to start like today.”

Gillian Manning is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email or tweet her @gillianmanning_ or email [email protected].