President-elect Joe Biden is already in the process of working with his transition team to overhaul executive orders placed during his predecessor’s time in office, according to The Washington Post. Among the immediately planned adjustments: setting up a coronavirus task force in recognition of the coronavirus global pandemic. The task force, which will be formed Monday, could begin meeting within days and will be co-chaired by former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy and David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.
Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), a longtime Biden ally who holds the seat Biden had for 36 years, offered a broad overview of Biden’s initial agenda: “Get us out of this pandemic that’s been made far worse by Trump’s bungled mishandling of it, rebuild our economy in a way that’s more sustainable and more inclusive, and deal with division and inequality.”
Biden has also vowed to institute new ethics guidelines at the White House beginning on his first day in office, effectively committing that no member of his administration will influence any Justice Department investigations.
Biden may have to lean more heavily on executive orders than he would have hoped considering Democrats will hold a narrowed majority in the House of Representatives while a possible minority in the Senate looms. The final makeup of the Senate is not yet clear and won’t be until Jan. 5 with two runoff elections in Georgia. Democrats would need to win both races to take back control of the Senate — with Vice President Kamala D. Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote — while Republicans would retain a narrow advantage by winning at least one of the seats in the runoff.
Coons suggested that Biden would promptly begin reaching out to leaders in both parties, but whether Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, if still in the role, would reciprocate — that’s anyone’s guess at this time. The Trump era has brought forward a new Republican party — and it doesn’t play nicely with others.
“There has also been a recognition of those around him [Biden] that he may have to lean more on executive actions than he had once hoped. He can reorient various federal agencies and regulations, and he can adopt a different posture on the world stage,” The Washington Post reported Sunday.
“The policy team, the transition policy teams, are focusing now very much on executive power,” said a Biden ally who has been in touch with his team who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. “I expect that to be freely used in a Biden administration at this point, if the Senate becomes a roadblock.”
Biden’s transition effort is being overseen by one of the president-elect’s closest advisers, Ted Kaufman. Kaufman was appointed to replace Biden in the Senate when Biden became vice president in 2009. He also helped co-write an update to the law governing the transition process, which was passed in 2015 and signed by President Barack Obama.
According to The Washington Post, Biden’s transition team has been given government-issued computers and iPhones for conducting secure communications, and 10,000 square feet of office space in the Herbert C. Hoover Building in Washington, although most of the work is being done virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. His advisers have been granted temporary security clearances and undergone FBI background checks to fast-track the processing of personnel who can receive briefings on intelligence.