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Megan Dewhirst

Joe Biden's first week as President...

From executive orders to trials of impeachment, the first week of President Biden’s term has been jam-packed.

On the very first evening of his presidency, Biden immediately took to the Oval Office to sign a string of executive orders. These successive actions signalled the urgency that his administration felt, with the pressure of the global pandemic and civil unrest presenting an uphill battle for the new president.

Image: The White House from Wikimedia Commons

As such, Biden signed nineteen executive actions that evening, including orders, requests, memorandums, and proclamations. Eight of these were to reverse President Trump’s lasting policies on the environment, immigration, and the coronavirus. Others were executive directives focusing upon ethics, equity, and the economy. It is worth reiterating the unique quantity of these executive acts; most presidents simply wait till the next day, like President Obama, or sign one particularly significant executive order related to their campaign (such as Trump did regarding The Affordable Care Act). Biden’s excessive actions showcase the unprecedented situation the new President finds himself in.

In such a quick flurry of executive orders, it is difficult to keep up with what has changed. Here is a quick round up of some, but by no means all, of the influential executive orders signed by President Biden in his first week:

• Executive order to halt the construction of the border wall
• Executive order to reverse the Trump ‘Muslim Ban’
• Executive order to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline and directs agencies to review and reverse more than 100 Trump actions on the environment
• Executive order to re-join the Paris Climate Accord
• Executive order to stop the withdrawal from the World Health Organisation
Many other executive orders followed, largely focusing on the coronavirus pandemic, making mask-wearing, vaccinations, and Covid-19 task-forces a priority.

Following the excitement in the executive, the legislature was also very active as the Senate confirmed a series of cabinet nominations this week.

Many of the appointments in these cabinet nominations are set to make history; the Defence Secretary shall see the first black person - General Lloyd Austin - to lead the Pentagon, Janet Yellen will be the first female Treasury Secretary, and Deb Haaland will be the first Native American Cabinet Secretary. Biden’s rival in the Democrat primaries, Pete Buttigieg, will also make history as the first openly LGBTQ+ Transportation Secretary.

So, as these Senate confirmations slowly pass through, we are witnessing an increasingly diverse cabinet standing behind and advising the President in his mission to unite a socially fractured United States.

Despite all of this action in US politics, Donald Trump’s impeachment trial dominates many of the headlines this week. On January 26th, the House of Representatives formally brought their article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the Senate. 45 out of the 50 Senate Republicans, however, voted to stop the trial on Tuesday, before it even commenced.

As a Senate conviction requires two-thirds (67 out of 100) of the votes, this Republican turnout for a ‘no trial’ does not bode well for the following Democrat led impeachment trial.  A successful impeachment would require 17 Republicans to deviate and vote with the Democrats, which looks unlikely as many are arguing that impeaching a President after his term has ended is unconstitutional. However, Democrats contest this argument, as there is no historical precedent regarding the impeachment of former-presidents.

Image: Bill Oxford from Unsplash

But, as the memories of the Capitol riots and Trump’s presidency begin to fade, so does the desire of Republican senators to convict Trump for ‘inciting violence’. Those who remain committed to convicting Trump in the Republican Party - like Liz Cheney - suffer internal party conflict as residual pro-Trump members seek to oust them and even threaten them with primary challenges next year.

This is not the end of the Senate impeachment hearings, however, as the Senate shall break from this issue for two weeks, giving time for Trump and the House to prepare their respective cases for the trial.

It has been a hectic first week for the new President, with no signs of slowing anytime soon, and so we shall have a lot to keep our eye on in the coming weeks.