Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th US president on Wednesday afternoon, completing a tumultuous transfer of power that was marred by Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat and the deadly attack on the Capitol.
Mr Biden’s oath of office was administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in the presence of congressional leaders from both parties and former presidents including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W Bush — but not Mr Trump, who refused to participate and flew to Florida on Wednesday morning.
The ceremony, which was heavily guarded by 25,000 troops, took place on the steps of the US Capitol ahead of Mr Biden’s inaugural address. The incoming president was expected to use the speech to ask Americans to unite in the face of the twin crises of Covid-19 and a bruising economic downturn, in a clear break from the divisiveness of Mr Trump’s term.
At 78 years old, Mr Biden is the oldest incoming US president — and he will be joined in governing the country by Kamala Harris, the former senator from California who will serve as the first female and first black vice-president.
Just prior to noon, Ms Harris was sworn in by Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, after Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem and before a performance by Jennifer Lopez.
Mr Biden is expected to quickly move to sign a barrage of executive orders later on Wednesday on his first afternoon as US president, reversing some of Donald Trump’s most controversial policies in areas ranging from climate change to immigration.
Globally, Mr Biden will signal that the US intends to rejoin the Paris climate accord and halt its withdrawal from the World Health Organization.
Anthony Fauci, the US health official who was often at odds with Mr Trump over the coronavirus response, will participate in this week’s executive board meeting at the WHO as head of the US delegation.
In addition, Mr Biden will stop the construction of the border wall with Mexico that was championed by his predecessor. He will also roll back the travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim countries introduced at the beginning of Mr Trump’s administration.
“It was rooted in xenophobia and religious animus and President-elect Biden has been clear that we will not turn our back on our values with discriminatory bans on entry to the United States,” Jake Sullivan, the incoming national security adviser, said of the Muslim ban in a briefing with reporters.
The president will also send an immigration reform bill to Congress that creates an eight-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The bill will need to be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate if it is to become law.
Democrats will take control of the upper chamber of Congress on Wednesday afternoon, after Ms Harris’s replacement and two Democrats from Georgia, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, take their seats in the Senate.
Mr Biden also plans to move to reverse some of the environmental deregulation pursued by Mr Trump.
The new president aims to rescind the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline connecting the US with Canada. “Its construction was not consistent with addressing the climate crisis to the depth and scope that we are planning to address it,” said Gina McCarthy, the incoming White House climate tsar.
Ms McCarthy said the Biden administration would place a temporary moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
On the economic front, Mr Biden will ask US government agencies to consider extending moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and extending the pause on interest and principal payments for federal student loans.
In terms of racial justice, Mr Biden will rescind Mr Trump’s “1776 commission”, which was set up by the outgoing president to “restore patriotic education to our schools” and was criticised for seeking to erase the history of racism in America.
Source: Financial Times