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Biden Expected To Sign Flurry Of Day 1 Executive Orders

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Joe Biden has gotten to work. A few minutes ago, he swore in dozens of his staffers, and he spent time in the Oval Office already, addressing some major challenges, which he laid out in his inaugural address.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: A raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America's role in the world - any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways.

KELLY: So those are his top priorities. And today, he signed a series of executive actions. These are steps he can take on his own to begin to take action. White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez joins us now.

Hey, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Before I ask about these executive actions and everything else, you're at the White House right now. What's it feel like?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, it's interesting. You know, this morning, I saw aides to the now-former President Trump saying their final goodbyes and doing their last bit of cleanup. But at noon, you know, as soon as President Biden was sworn in, we really started to see changes. First, his team took over the White House website. Then they took over the POTUS Twitter account. Biden's first tweet, by the way, was that there's no time to waste. And very soon after, photos of the Bidens were being put up on walls in the West Wing that had been left bare. And then staff started showing up, and they were getting their computers set up and saying hellos. It was really fast. And then, of course, Biden arrived around 4 p.m., you know, escorted by the military.

KELLY: All right. So let's get into those policy priorities that we heard him lay out. He wants to tackle the pandemic, the economy, climate change, racial justice - big, thorny issues, not things anybody can fix in a day. What can he do on Day 1 and Day 2?

ORDOÑEZ: It is a lot. He's going to - he's signing 17 executive actions today. His chief of staff and other top advisers laid out the details for some of us reporters last night, and these are things he's been talking about for a while. He's requiring people to wear masks in federal buildings. He is officially rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris climate agreement. He's revoking a ban that Trump had on diversity training, and he's stopping construction of the border wall and the Keystone Pipeline. But some of these orders are really just to get the ball rolling on things that are going to take more time. Just as an example, they've identified more than a hundred of Trump's environmental rollbacks that they want to reverse. But the actual reversal is going to take some more work.

KELLY: And meanwhile, a lot of his agenda are things where he can't do it on his own, where he is going to need to work with Congress. What do we know about his legislative agenda?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, today, he's planning to send a comprehensive immigration proposal to the Hill. This was something that he promised to do on Day 1. It'll offer a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country. And because of that, before the bill even got to the Hill, we saw one senator say he will put a hold on Biden's nominee for the Department of Homeland Security over the measure. So this is going to continue to be a flashpoint between Republicans and Democrats. But, you know, the real test of whether Biden can marshal some kind of unity is his proposal for a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. And that plan would cover vaccines and economic relief for families.

KELLY: Just give us a quick preview of his calendar in the coming days.

ORDOÑEZ: Well, we're told to expect more executive orders through next week and beyond. And next month, President Biden will propose another recovery bill for Congress. And he plans a big shift for U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy. And one of the first things that's going to happen on that front - tomorrow, Dr. Anthony Fauci is going to be part of a World Health Organization meeting.

KELLY: That is our White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez reporting from the White House.

Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.