Joe Biden took the oath of office at noon on Jan. 20 to become the 46th president of the United States.
The inauguration took place amid unprecedented circumstances. The president delivered the inaugural address standing before a virtually empty National Mall, due to security concerns stemming from the breach of the U.S. Capitol two weeks earlier. Instead of the customary crowd, organizers planted thousands of American flags on the mall.
Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts administered the oath. Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn in shortly before Biden.
Biden, 78, succeeds President Donald Trump, who skipped the inauguration. Vice President Mike Pence attended the ceremony alongside former Presidents Barack Obama, George Bush, and Bill Clinton.
“We'll press forward with speed and urgency for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities, much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain,” Biden said.
The inaugural address, though not formally a policy speech, offered a glimpse into Biden’s priorities. After addressing the pandemic, Biden touched on the issues of racism, climate change, domestic terrorism, and white supremacy. He then called for unity.
“My whole soul is in this, bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said.
“Uniting to fight the foes we face: anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, and hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things, important things.”
Biden, who campaigned on undoing much of Trump’s legacy, was expected to sign a list of nearly two dozen executive actions later in the day, including an order stopping the construction of Trump’s signature border wall, rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, and canceling the travel ban Trump put in place to protect the nation from radical Islamic terrorism.
Earlier in the day, Trump delivered a farewell address at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One en route to Florida. The president told supporters he “will be back in some form.”
Biden, accompanied by his wife First Lady Jill Biden, descended the steps to the balcony of the Capitol just over 40 minutes prior to noon. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) delivered the opening speeches. Lawmakers from both chambers of Congress and Supreme Court justices attended the ceremony. Pop singer Lady Gaga performed the national anthem.
Biden, a Democrat, took office amid the ongoing CCP virus pandemic. More than 400,000 Americans are reported to have lost their lives to the virus. All of the attendees, with the exception of the speakers, wore masks. A portion of the seating was arranged with social distancing in mind.
Executive ActionsAhead of the inauguration, Biden’s transition team previewed a list of executive actions the president was scheduled to sign later in the evening. The actions largely focus on undoing former President Donald Trump’s achievements, addressing the pandemic, and reorienting the government around Biden’s vision of “equity.”
The president was expected to reengage the World Health Organization (WHO). Trump quit the organization after alleging it helped the Chinese regime cover up the outbreak of the CCP virus.
Biden was also expected to sign a series of executive actions and letters addressing the pandemic and the related economic problems. The actions include: a mandate for masks to be worn on all federal properties, an order creating the position of COVID-19 response coordinator, the restoration of the National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, as well as a request for federal agencies to extend moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures and the pause of federal student loan payments.
The president’s first-day executive actions also include a presidential memorandum canceling his predecessor’s deregulation mechanisms, which included a requirement that two existing federal regulations be slashed for each new regulation. Trump has often lauded the deregulation framework he put in place as the single biggest reason for the resurgent economy. Biden’s White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, issued a memo freezing all new Trump-administration regulations so they can be reviewed.
Biden was expected to sign an order directing the federal government to review all regulatory actions taken by the Trump administration, including a specific list of environmental actions. The president was expected to sign a separate executive order focusing on the environment, which features the cancellation of the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, among other actions.
Another first-day executive order defines what “equity” is and orders the federal government to work toward “equity for all—including people of color and others who have been historically underserved and marginalized.”
On the cultural front, the first-day agenda included the cancellation of Trump’s 1776 commission, which sought to counter negative narratives about the founding principles of the United States. Biden was also expected to rescind the ban on critical race and critical gender theory training for federal employees and contractors. Such training is based on a Marxist theory that reinterprets society and history based on the concept of “struggle,” pitting races and sexes against each other by labeling them either as “oppressors” or “oppressed.”
On immigration, Biden was expected to withdraw Trump’s order on excluding noncitizens from the census count, to direct the government to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—which granted temporary immigration status to children brought to the United States illegally—and to rescind a Trump directive that gave the Department of Homeland Security a broader scope for detaining and deporting illegal aliens.