scorecardHere's what President-elect Joe Biden has promised for his first day in the White House
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Here's what President-elect Joe Biden has promised for his first day in the White House

Robin Bravender   

Here's what President-elect Joe Biden has promised for his first day in the White House
PoliticsPolitics5 min read
  • It's going to be hard for Joe Biden to do all the things he's promised on his first day in office.
  • His "day one" pledges include everything from re-entering an international climate change deal to putting in place an action plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Democrats often make lofty promises on the campaign trail. Sometimes they take a while to get done, and other times they get broken.
  • "You campaign in poetry and you govern in prose, and Joe Biden knows that better than anybody," said Joel Payne, a strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
  • Even if he doesn't do everything he promised on Jan. 20, Biden will have a busy day shredding up President Donald Trump's policies and launching his own agenda.

President-elect Joe Biden's campaign promises will confront political reality on Jan. 20.

On the campaign trail, Biden laid out a long list of promises he said he'll get done on "day one" of his administration. Among them, he pledged to put a COVID action plan in place, sign a series of executive orders, re-enter the Paris climate change accord, and send a big immigration bill to Congress.

That's a ton to do on a single day— and that's not even everything he promised. Even his supporters say he's unlikely to get to everything on day one.

"You campaign in poetry and you govern in prose, and Joe Biden knows that better than anybody," said Joel Payne, a strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. "He is going to be responsive to the moment of what's going to be necessary for him to focus on."

Presidents always make lofty campaign-trail promises, and it's hardly uncommon for candidates to lay out plans or time frames that end up being unrealistic once they get into office. Biden will certainly sign a pile of executive orders on his first day; some things might take longer to follow through on than expected or wind up being too politically tricky.

Here's Insider's roundup of what Biden has promised to do on his first day in office.

COVID action plan

Biden will take office after the coronavirus has killed more than 230,000 Americans and after the Trump administration gave conflicting signals about how to deal with the crisis.

That's why the president-elect is naming 12 people on Monday to a COVID task force, according to an Axios report.

In his closing speech to the American public right before Election Day 2020, Biden laid out his "day one" plan to combat the pandemic.

"If I'm elected president, we're going to act, on day one we're going to act to get COVID under control, on day one of my presidency I'll put in action a plan that I've been talking about for months, masking, social distancing, testing, tracing, a plans for full and fair and free distribution of therapeutics and vaccines when we get one," Biden said at a rally in Pittsburgh.

Biden's campaign website also says he'll start implementing his plan "on Day One" to get the "pandemic under control and effectively reopen the economy — an approach that will both protect the health and safety of our people and boost economic activity."

Climate change

Biden has promised clean energy executive orders on day one, and also plans to re-enter the Paris climate change accord that then-President Barack Obama signed but the US abandoned during the Trump era.

"On day one, Biden will sign a series of new executive orders with unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama-Biden Administration platform and put us on the right track," Biden's website says.

That's not all. He also promises on day one to "make smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change."


Cracking down on immigration has been a central theme of Trump's administration, and Biden has promised to roll back some of his predecessor's most contentious plans. But sweeping immigration reform has eluded recent presidents from Obama to George W. Bush.

Still, Biden has promised to send immigration legislation to Capitol Hill on Jan. 20.

"I'll send a bill to Congress on day one that will create a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented individuals already living in and strengthening the United States," Biden's campaign website says. "These are our neighbors and coworkers, and they are integral to our communities."

He has also promised to revoke Trump's controversial order restricting immigration from majority Muslim countries. "On day one, Joe Biden will rescind the un-American Muslim travel and refugee bans and will cease the immoral family separation policy," according to his campaign website.


Trump trashed norms in Washington as he stonewalled congressional oversight requests, prompted numerous complaints of Hatch Act violations that limit politicking by federal employees, and asked the Justice Department to defend him in a defamation lawsuit. And that's just the Cliffs Notes version.

Biden has promised new government reforms on day one. His plans are a direct response to the Trump administration.

"Donald Trump has presided over the most corrupt administration in modern history," according to Biden's campaign website. "The charge facing the president who follows Donald Trump is as big as it is essential: restoring faith in American government.

Biden said he'll issue an executive order that says "no White House staff or any member of his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason" and that Biden will fire anyone who tries to do so.

The president-elect also promised an ethics plan "to ensure that every member of his administration focuses day-in and day-out on the best outcomes for the American people, and nothing else."

Foreign relations

Biden chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before being a point man for international affairs as Obama's vice president. Since he took office, Trump has strained relations with long-standing US allies and rejected international deals the Obama team had crafted.

From day one of the Biden administration, the president-elect has promised, "other countries will once again have reason to trust and respect the word of an American president."

Social Security

Biden slammed Trump on the campaign trail, alleging that the president wanted to gut Social Security after Trump said he wanted to eliminate the payroll tax that funds the program. The White House stressed that Trump instead wanted to forgive a payroll tax holiday.

A Biden-Harris administration "will protect Social Security and increase benefits for millions of seniors. From day one, we'll work to safeguard the retirement savings and pensions that hard-working Americans have earned and deserve," Biden's campaign said.

Diverse appointments

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be the first woman and the first woman of color to serve in the White House. Biden's campaign promised to fill even more top slots with women and people of color, and he's pledged to appoint the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.

"Biden will start on day one of his Administration leading by example, making sure his political appointees, including his Cabinet, and our entire federal workforce look like the country they serve," according to his campaign website.

Racial justice

Biden will face pressure for dramatic reforms after national racial justice protests rocked the country in the wake of George Floyd's death in May. Trump and some of his allies have denied the existence of systemic racism in the country, but Biden has made racial justice a centerpiece of his campaign, arguing that "race-neutral policies are not a sufficient response to race-based disparities."

Biden said he would "begin on day one of his Administration to address the systemic racism that persists across our institutions today."