US election: what is top of Joe Biden’s agenda as he prepares his transition team?
Tackling coronavirus, economic slump and climate change will be high up on the president-elect’s to-do list
Americans across the nation’s blue states headed out into the streets to celebrate as Pennsylvania was called in favour of Joe Biden on Saturday, while red states mourned the end of four years of Donald Trump.
Acknowledging this national divide in his first speech after victory was declared, the Democratic challenger vowed not to “divide but to unify” and urged all US citizens to “give each other a chance”.
But this healing process will take time, and Biden will face many other challenges when he takes office in early 2021. So what other issues will be at the top of his Oval Office in-tray?
Tackling the coronavirus pandemic is arguably the most urgent task facing Biden. The US has struggled to contain the virus, reporting its ten millionth case on Sunday, with the latest million added over just ten days.
Covid-19 has claimed the lives of almost 240,000 Americans so far, according to latest figures - the highest tally in the world.
Biden has said that after taking office, he will immediately put a national strategy in place to “get ahead” of the virus, with measures including introducing a US-wide mask mandate, encouraging regional lockdowns, and green-lighting a plan for widespread testing.
The president-elect has also “voiced support for a robust relief measure that includes another federal bonus to weekly unemployment benefits, more aid for struggling small businesses and financially distressed states, and another round of stimulus checks to most households”, USA Today reports.
But as the paper notes, the passing of such measures is likely to hinge on which party has the majority in the Senate, a balance that will be decided in two run-off elections in Georgia in January.
In the meantime, Biden’s transition team has today named the public health experts who will make up his coronavirus advisory board. The experts include Rick Bright, “a whistle-blower from the Trump administration who alleged that his early warnings about the pandemic were ignored and ultimately led to his removal”, says CNN.
It’s the econony, stupid
As the election campaign hotted up back in July, Biden unveiled his “Build Back Better” strategy, a $700bn blueprint to create up to 11 million jobs amid rising unemployment triggered by the Covid pandemic. According to the Economic Times, the scheme would be financed “through tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans and on major corporations”.
In the longer term, the Democrat “wants bills like the union-backed Protecting the Right to Organize Act, as well as government assistance to help revitalise manufacturing and new infrastructure investments”, NBC News says.
During his campaign to win the White House, Biden also “backed plans to forgive student loans, increase social security cheques for pensioners and provide money for small businesses”, adds the BBC.
One of the most difficult challenges facing the president-elect is enacting a plan to combat the climate crisis.
“Democrats themselves are not fully unified on how to approach the issue,” says NPR, which reports that “divisions over how quickly and aggressively to move to limit carbon emissions have simmered” since Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey tabled a Green New Deal last year.
Biden has pledged a $2trn plan to fight climate change that includes an increase in solar and wind energy, a network of electric vehicle charging stations and a plan to reach zero net-emissions by 2050. But “many moderate Democrats are skeptical of those plans, and Republicans have mocked the proposal”, the news site adds.
Not ‘healthy, caring, nor a system’
Biden came under fire from the left of his own party over his rejection of Medicare For All, the single-payer system championed by Democratic lawmakers including Biden’s presidential candidate rival Bernie Sanders.
The president-elect’s version, which he refers to as “Bidencare”, will include what he refers to as a “public option” to compete with private insurers in the marketplaces.
His plan will cost an estimated $750bn, “which would mostly be paid for by repealing President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy and returning the top tax rate to 39.6%”, NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor reports.