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Politics Update: How Biden Will Spend His First Days As President


Now to another national political correspondent, the great Mara Liasson, who has been covering presidential inaugurations for - well, I'm going to let you answer that, Mara. How long?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Gee, I'd have to think about that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) A long time.

LIASSON: Not as long as you'd think, but certainly since Bill Clinton.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. Well, it is wonderful to have you with us this morning. What are you expecting from Joe Biden on Wednesday during his big speech?

LIASSON: I think he's going to set a completely different tone than the one we heard four years ago with Trump's dark American carnage speech. I think his speech will be optimistic and positive. He ran on healing the nation, trying to unify the nation and bring - bridge divisions after the violent siege at the Capitol last week. That need is even greater than ever. The wounds are more gaping than ever. And I think that that is the setup for his speech, and it fits right into the themes that he ran on.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does that agenda look like, the one that he is going to be trying to implement?

LIASSON: The agenda is very aggressive and ambitious. Ron Klain, the incoming chief of staff, sent a memo to top Biden staffers talking about the things that he's going to do in the very first days. The administration wants to not so much hit the ground running as hit the ground sprinting - lots of executive orders he's going to sign on Day 1 in order to extend the pause on federal student loan payments, rejoin the Paris climate agreement, reverse President Trump's Muslim ban, mandate masks on federal property, extend the ban on evictions.

It's pretty typical for a new president to sign executive orders, some of them overturning things that his predecessors did, but this list is very ambitious, very aggressive. He wants to create a sense of momentum. He's also going to submit on Day 1 an immigration bill to Congress which would codify DACA and provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. That's something that originally he said he'd do in his first a hundred days, but it's been moved up.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. You just mentioned the first 100 days in office. That is typically the time that we look at to sort of see what a new administration does. But you also mention all the unprecedented things that this administration will be facing. How much is realistic, and how much is bluster?

LIASSON: Well, the - a lot of the executive orders are realistic. There are things the president can do by himself. And there are four overlapping crises that the new administration talks about - the pandemic, the economic recession, climate change and racial justice. And that's what he is going to try to tackle all at once. I don't think any president has taken office with this many crises at once.

And the administration - the new administration is filled with people who know how to govern and have a lot of experience. And I think they're going to kind of flood the zone with governance. On the other hand, legislation will be harder to achieve because a 50 vote - 51-vote majority in the Senate is very, very slim. And don't forget, we're going to have an impeachment trial in the first days of the Biden administration as well.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. How could we? Beyond that first day, you know, what else is really top of mind for Joe Biden when he's trying to tackle all these crises?

LIASSON: Ron Klain's memo outlines things he'll do on Day 2 - executive actions to safely reopen schools and businesses. On Day 3, he's going to direct agencies to, quote, "take immediate action to deliver economic relief to working families." There are buy American provisions he's going to issue and then lots of other executive actions on criminal justice reforms and racial equality.

In the first month, they say that he is going to introduce another package to Congress, a jobs bill. This is after the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that he's already unveiled. And he's going to show his support for pending legislation on voting rights and raising the minimum wage. This is a big agenda. And for some of this stuff, he's going to need Republican help.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Mara, thank you very much.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.