Hard to believe that it’s already been about three months since President Biden was sworn into office. We talked back then about the importance placed on the first 100 days of a new presidential administration as a way of measuring its success at setting priorities and confronting the challenges facing the country. Well, the US is facing A LOT of challenges: a pandemic, economic collapse, a climate crisis, racial injustice, and immigration.
The new president pledged to take immediate action on all of them.
How did he do? Here’s our report on the Biden Administration’s first 100 days.
When Biden took office, 400,000 Americans had died of COVID-19. In the absence of credible federal leadership, the pandemic response was left to individual states, where governors, mayors, and local leaders had a decidedly mixed track record of keeping people safe and informed. Too many politicians denied and obscured scientific facts, leaving Americans sick, confused, and demoralized.
The new administration immediately set a new tone. They centered the advice of scientists, put together a competent team to manage and accelerate vaccine distribution, and communicated plans openly and transparently. The pandemic is far from over and racial disparities in vaccine distribution remain a serious problem, but we’re finally feeling like we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Dramatically ramped up the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Blew past original goal of distributing 100 million shots in 100 days. Set a new goal of 200 million shots—and achieved that as well.
- Elevated the role of science in all decision-making.
- Increased funding for vaccinations and directed more money to states to help reopen schools.
- Rejoined the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Climate Crisis
The previous administration’s disdain for science wasn’t limited to its bungled pandemic response. It consistently catered to the interests of fossil fuel industry executives, wealthy donors, and climate deniers, which explains why they pulled America, the world’s all-time leader in carbon emissions, out of the Paris Climate Agreement. They also rolled back Obama-era efforts to limit emissions and strengthen environmental regulations.
President Biden has made it clear that climate change will be treated like the crisis it is. It’s been elevated as a planning and strategic priority across the whole of the federal government, from transportation to the military. The US rejoined the Paris Agreement and is again working with global partners to fight climate change. These are significant steps, but success will be measured by whether the US can truly implement policies and processes that dramatically cut emissions and help guide an equitable transition to a clean-energy future.
- Rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement.
- Signed an executive order to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, halt the development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and review and reverse Trump-era rollbacks of climate regulations.
- Signed an executive order to halt new oil and gas leases on federal lands and offshore waters.
- Established climate change as a critical component of US foreign policy, national security, and economic planning.
- Pledged to cut emissions by at least half by 2030—which will require an unprecedented shift away from fossil fuels.
Black and Brown communities are besieged by police violence and systemic racism. Police officers continue to kill Black men and women. People of color were hit harder by the pandemic than anybody else, and in many places they’re now last in line for vaccine distribution. They were hit harder by the economic collapse too and are recovering more slowly—thanks to factors like decades of chronic underinvestment in their communities and being disproportionately shut out from receiving PPP loans.
Modern-day American racism, with its roots in slavery and white supremacy, can’t be overcome in 100 days. While the new administration, having appointed the most diverse cabinet in history, has shown a willingness to listen and learn, what we really need is action. In particular, we need to make sure President Biden takes concrete steps to protect voting rights, transform American policing, and rebuild our system of public safety.
Racial Justice-Response Highlights:
- Told the Department of Justice to end its use of private prisons.
- Directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect racial equity in housing.
- Created an Environmental Justice Advisory Council to ensure that voices of front-line communities are heard.
- The Justice Department announced investigations into the Minneapolis, MN, and Louisville, KY, police departments
President Biden made some big promises about overhauling this country’s immigration system, but so far there is not much to show for it. It’s one thing to reverse brutal and racist Trump-era policies, which the Biden administration, to its credit, has certainly done—but now it’s absolutely critical to replace them with a new system that treats immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers with the respect and humanity they deserve. This is where the new administration has fallen short.
President Biden’s initial decision to keep in place the previous administration’s historically low cap on refugees allowed into the US sparked outrage among families, activists, advocates, and members of his own party, leading him to reverse course within hours. A surge of people, including young children, attempting to enter the US along the Southern border has created a humanitarian crisis that the Biden administration has so far appeared incapable of managing. We must keep pressure on the president to ensure that he finds a solution to these and other challenges facing our immigration system.
- Signed executive orders ending the Trump-era Muslim travel ban, preserving the DACA program, and ending family separation.
- Halted the funding for and the construction of the border wall.
- Reversed previous administration’s ban on legal immigration.
Here, like everywhere else around the world, the economy cratered after quarantines were implemented and offices, stores, restaurants, and pretty much everything else had to shut down. Unemployment rose to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Store closings and bankruptcies multiplied. Corporations and the wealthy received the lion’s share of benefits from the previous administration’s stimulus package—but what about helping the people who were truly suffering?
President Biden announced the American Rescue Plan right away and, with relatively little drama, got it passed by Congress. This legislation directed money to where it was needed the most: working people, state economies, small businesses, schools, and more. Unfortunately, a minimum-wage increase was left out of the final package. We’d also like to see the administration push for student-loan forgiveness.
- Signed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package into law, one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in American history. Includes direct payments to millions of Americans, provides funding to shore up state economies and, significantly, extends the child tax credit, potentially cutting childhood poverty in half.
- Announced a $2 trillion infrastructure package with the goal of equitably creating jobs and rebuilding the economy.
- Extended the pause on federal student loan payments and collections and kept the interest rate at 0%.
Keep the Pressure On
Elections have consequences. In just a few short months we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the role the government is playing in addressing the most serious issues facing this country. Let’s take a moment to celebrate these accomplishments and thank the activists who’ve been working so hard for so many years to make change like this possible.
That felt pretty good, right?
OK, well, now let’s make sure we focus on the work that still must get done. Whether it’s immigration, economic justice, or systemic racism, many challenges remain. It’s up to us to stay active and engaged and make sure the Biden administration follows through on its promises.