On January 20, President Joe Biden became the 46th President in American history. It was a different inauguration punctuated by the extra security and lack of crowds due to COVID-19, but a remarkable transition of power occurred, and we now look toward the Biden Presidency.
President Biden wasted no time issuing some significant executive orders while also laying out some key policy priorities. Biden’s first executive orders were primarily directed at rolling back some of President Trump’s policies like rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, ending what’s been referred to politically as the “Muslim” travel ban and ending construction of the southern border wall. Other executive orders focused on COVID, the economy and racial equity.
We anticipate more to come, but at this point, the president has not rescinded President Trump’s guest worker visa suspension. Regardless, it is set to expire on March 31 prior to the April second half cap date of entry. Recent reports indicate that he does plan to rescind Trump’s guest worker suspension later in February.
In addition to the executive orders, President Biden immediately placed a regulatory freeze on rules that had not been finalized under President Trump and also put in place a list of regulatory actions under President Trump that will be closely reviewed and scrutinized in the interest of public health.
President Biden also began to lay out his policy objectives for his first term. His first legislative priority will be asking Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 “Rescue” package followed closely by a “Recovery” package that will focus on the economy and infrastructure. In his first week in office, President Biden also put forth the parameters of comprehensive immigration reform, which may have a significant impact on long-standing efforts to achieve comprehensive H-2B reforms and cap relief. We also believe large scale proposals on climate change, racial and gender equity are forthcoming, along with some likely smaller proposals on taxes and healthcare in response to legislation passed by the previous Congress.
It is remarkable that so many of NALP tier 1 priorities (environmental, immigration, labor and COVID-19 relief) will be at the forefront of many of these conversations. In no way does this mean we will get exactly what we want, but it means we have a lot of work to do to protect and promote landscape policy priorities during the debates.
It is important to note that President Biden’s proposed legislative agenda is just a road map for legislative priorities. In order to be made into law, President Biden’s priorities must be negotiated, amended and passed by both chambers of Congress, which is not an easy task. Whatever Biden proposes is not what will be enacted into law but provides a “marker” for Congress to begin negotiations. The House and Senate are in Democratic majority, but the margins are thin, especially in the Senate, where there is no filibuster proof majority. President Biden continues to court 10 moderate Republicans, but in order to defeat the filibuster, all 10 must come on board.
Discussions will also continue about abolishing the filibuster or passing some of Biden’s proposals through a process called “reconciliation” (we’ll cover more in detail at a later date if and when it becomes pertinent). In the end, compromise and negotiations will need to occur to gain Republican support along with some of their priorities.
Lastly, it would be important to note that Biden has a very short window before his power politically begins to wane and the likelihood of passing these bold proposals becomes increasingly narrow. When Obama was elected and Democrats controlled Congress, they passed a massive stimulus package, Cap and Trade, Dodd Frank financial reform and then healthcare. By the fall of his first year, his political capital was spent and the Republicans took control of the House a year later.