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Joe Biden’s 100-day marathon is a sprint

The first 100 days are seen both as a harbinger of the next four years as well as an ambition scorecard

January 28, 2021 / 01:53 PM IST
Joe Biden.

Joe Biden.

Donald Trump is still President!

Well, not literally, the Electoral College, Congress Ratification and the inauguration will say otherwise.

Joseph Biden Jr, who became the 46th President of the United States sits ensconced in an office that he was geographically close to for eight years, but politically still further away from. Biden realises that his successor still hasn’t left the Oval Office.

Again, not literally, but the essence of Trump’s cataclysmic transactional interpretation of policy still lingers all over the Oval Office like dampness on the walls.

The first 100 days is seen both as a harbinger of the next four years as well as an ambition scorecard. Most presidential candidates on the campaign trail laud the sweeping enactments that they intend to pass in their first 100 days.

His former boss had a legacy healthcare plan that he intended to unveil and seek congressional approval of in his first 100 days. As President, Barack Obama did just that. But now Biden finds that his 100-day marathon is more of a sprint, less about innovative policy that he can implement, and more about undoing his predecessor's last four years.

Not since Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), who took the reins to the Oval Office in the midst of the Great Depression, has a US President had to enter the hallowed walls under such trying circumstances of an economic quandary, healthcare morass, with as many COVID-19 cases as the population of Australia, and death toll set to touch half a million.

How fitting then that it actually was FDR, who first used the phrase first “One Hundred Days”, in a radio address on July 24, 1933.

A slew of executive orders have seen Biden prioritise the healthcare crisis that has spiralled out of control. On top of Biden’s agenda include mass vaccinations, with the goal of getting 100 million people in the US vaccinated by April. This is intended through opening more vaccine centres and employing federal personnel to oversee the mass vaccination drive.

With regard to prevention being better than cure, Biden has mandated wearing a mask on planes, trains and across all federal property in the US. Out the window went policies so uniquely Trump that the ‘Muslim Ban’, ban on transgender people enlisting in the military, and funding for the southern border wall were swiftly overturned.

With reference to Climate Change, Biden rescinded the permit on the Keystone XL pipeline, as the administration has made it unequivocally clear that it will re-join the Paris Climate Accords.

The administration is looking at safe but efficient reopening of schools and bigger stimulus checks with additional aid for unemployed, those facing eviction, support for small and medium businesses. This is all part of Biden’s near $2 trillion proposal dubbed as the American Rescue Plan.

As written in an earlier article, “the fallacy here is the assumption that Biden, if he were to win and enter the Oval Office in January, with a stroke of a pen would reopen the floodgates to high-skilled workers and loosen the immigration chokehold”.

Biden’s immigration plan revolves around a pathway to citizenship which would enable undocumented immigrants, mostly from Central America, to fast track and achieve citizenship within eight years — a much-reduced timeframe. There is little that Biden will state on H-1B and high-skilled immigrants as that priority is way below the totem pole as resuscitating the economy and subduing the healthcare crisis continue to shape urgency.

The administration wants to set a new tone externally, and internally, Biden’s tone was clear when he addressed his staff through a virtual briefing and said any staffer treating another staffer with disrespect or condescension would be fired on the spot. He said “decency and respect was something that was derelict the past four years.”

Trump exited both the White House and Twitter this month, both begrudgingly and out of compulsion. As Biden’s John Hancock, which is less than 280 characters undoes Trump’s policies, at times spelled out in his tweets, Biden realises like his predecessor he too found the pen mightier than the sword to overturn policy through executive order.

But presidential policy isn’t executive orders; that’s only one powerful part. Soon, he will need to navigate the labyrinth of complicate legislation and re-immerse himself with the banalities and brouhahas of congressional gridlock.

Albeit marginally, Biden realises how fortunate he is to have both chambers of Congress leaning blue; for now!
Akshobh Giridharadas is a Washington DC-based former journalist. Views are personal.
first published: Jan 28, 2021 01:53 pm