Biden Administration Policy Priorities
On January 20, Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. At the top of President Biden’s policy agenda is COVID-19 relief and recovery.
As outlined on January 14, the Biden Administration intends to pursue a $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan, which is expected to include an additional $20 billion for transit to maintain employee payroll and ensure maintained service.
In February, the Administration will likely release its second piece of COVID relief legislation focused on Recovery, which may include an infrastructure portion used to spur economic growth and generate immediate jobs.
Although a $15 federal minimum wage is included, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) says that is an absolute no starter, as are expanding paid leave for workers and providing $350 billion to state and local governments.
Beyond the current pandemic, the first days of the Biden Administration will inform his approach to tax, national security, climate, trade, healthcare, antitrust, and technology policy.
On day one, President Biden’s Executive Orders made it abundantly clear he will seek to reverse much of the Trump Administration’s regulatory agenda.
Biden is directing his team to review nearly 100 Trump-era actions, ranging from relaxed Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to restrictions on how the agency considers science in policymaking to decisions declining to tighten federal air quality limits.
However, much of Biden’s regulatory agenda will take months, if not years, to implement with no guarantee that these efforts will be successful.
The requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and various federal statutes could impose hurdles to the Biden Administration’s goal of repealing or revising the prior administration’s major regulatory initiatives.
Plus, Republican led states and conservative groups are likely to challenge the Biden Administration’s final rules in court.
The Biden Administration may leverage a tool known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). With a simple majority vote in the House and Senate, Congress can use the CRA to undo any regulations implemented by the Trump Administration within the last 60 legislative days (August 21, 2020).
Of note – using the CRA to repeal a rule would prevent the Biden Administration from issuing a future new rule that is substantially similar, unless otherwise directed by Congress. The practical effect is that the Biden Administration will exercise caution when deciding whether to use the CRA.
Narrow Democratic majorities in Congress will require President Biden to reach across the aisle to recruit Republican support. Infrastructure was front-and-center during the Biden campaign and, given historical bipartisan support, an infrastructure package may prove to be President Biden’s key bipartisan priority in his first 100 days.
In addition to policy priorities, President Biden announced appointments to several cabinet and senior-level positions, including South Bend, Indiana Mayor and former Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation.
Although Buttigieg seemed to indicate he was open to all manners of funding during his confirmation hearing yesterday, a DOT spokesperson announced that Buttigieg does not support increasing the federal gas tax.
Biden also announced that New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg would serve as Deputy Secretary.
Also, Deanne Criswell is selected to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which is primarily responsible for responding to natural disasters. She is currently the commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management Department, and she also worked at FEMA under the Obama Administration.
While President Biden will begin his term with a Democratic Congress, the events leading up to the inauguration have stymied Congress’s ability to confirm cabinet members and, as such, it may take a few weeks for the Biden Administration to be fully operational, especially with the prospect of another impeachment trial looming.