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Biden’s First 100 Days

It’s hard to see Biden seriously applying himself to any other subject than COVID-19 during the first three months of his presidency

Biden’s COVID-19 plan

President Trump’s supporters were critical of what they saw as the media’s obsession with the virus, claiming it was sowing hysteria. But now, deep into the third wave, with 90,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths per day, it’s no longer a matter of opinion — but of dry facts. It’s hard to see Biden seriously applying himself to any other subject during the first three months of his presidency.

Biden was elected first and foremost because he claimed to have a plan to root out the virus. But having a plan is not a guarantee of success, and he’s expected to come up against a number of challenges and obstacles. Biden’s signature promise is a national mask mandate. Given how controversial mask wearing has become, it’s hard to see how he would put that into action, and it’s difficult to envision 50 governors and thousands of mayors seriously enforcing it. As president, he can make a warm recommendation, but the battle over masks will sadly accompany us well into 2021.

Court packing

Another subject on the new administration’s agenda is the United States Supreme Court. Biden said that if elected, he’ll appoint a bipartisan commission of experts to study Supreme Court reform. Many of the president-elect’s supporters want him to counterbalance the 6-3 conservative majority — by packing the Court. But Biden promised to be a president for all Americans, and given pre-election polls showing wide majorities opposed to court-packing, he likely won’t hurry to institute far-reaching reforms to the system. He would like to begin his administration with a conciliatory gesture toward those who didn’t vote for him, and drastic Supreme Court reform would not only end all hope of that, it would also energize the Republican opposition.


When it comes to immigration, we can expect a 180-degree policy change from the Trump administration. Biden already announced in the last week of the campaign that he’ll form a commission to locate the parents of 545 immigrant children who were separated from their parents at the border — a policy, incidentally, that was initiated under the Obama administration. He also said that he’ll act to enshrine the position of children of dreamers — DACA — so that the 11 million children brought to the United States illegally by their parents will have a path to citizenship.

The Middle East

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is one thing definitely not on the Biden administration’s agenda for the first 100 days. Biden has said nothing about a new peace deal or when a new one might be in the offing. He has likewise given no word about continuing the Trump administration’s efforts to build relations between Israel and Arab states.

The Iran deal

Biden said he’ll rejoin the Iran nuclear deal — but this will be a complicated diplomatic process that could take up months or even a year, while Tehran continues its development of the bomb. Firstly, Biden will have to appoint a secretary of state to negotiate with the Europeans. This alone will fill up the first 100 days. Next, the United States and the Europeans will have to agree on a coherent and united front regarding what this new deal will involve. Biden has signaled that he would like it to include Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as extending the sunset clauses. But getting the Europeans on board will only be the first stage, because after that Biden will have to secure the approval of the Chinese and Russians, who were also signatories to the deal, and who are also much more sympathetic to Iran. Only after all this is accomplished can direct negotiations with the Iranians commence, in itself a delicate and sensitive process.

Black Lives Matter

Biden’s voters are also expecting police reform of some type. But this won’t be simple. First of all, his most extreme supporters have been calling to “defund the police” — a nonstarter with most Americans. Second, police protection is a function of municipal and state government, not for the federal government. Each state has its own laws and system, and they won’t be happy to let the White House poke its nose in their affairs. Biden won’t find it easy to deliver results that will satisfy his supporters, and this subject can be expected to stay with us for a while. Just last week, riots broke out in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., after the deaths of two young black men — one shot by police, one killed in a car crash resulting from a police chase. The president-elect will have to navigate carefully between different and mutually suspicious populations that expect quick solutions.

The sick economy

Biden will have to balance two impossible factors: the economy and the virus. Parents can’t return to work as long as their children aren’t going to school, and children can’t return to school as long as states are seeing a 30%-50% increase in cases. Some states have found ways to open businesses and schools safely, but in other states, the reopening of schools was followed by a surge in new cases. Biden pledged funding for schools to put up plexiglass partitions between desks, so children can study in a safe environment. But it’s hard to see this changing the situation drastically.

Over and above the health issue, there’s also the matter of economic aid to the public. As a result of political tensions on the eve of elections, the negotiations between the House, Senate, and White House for a third stimulus bill fell through. Now they’re expected to resume in full gear. The stock market saw a slight downturn last week after prospects of a stimulus bill before the election were scrapped, and many industries hurt by the virus — such as the airline industry, are looking to the government for help.

Rejoining the world

Foreign affairs won’t occupy a prominent part of the first 100 days of the Biden administration, due to the urgency of all the domestic issues. But two things that could happen almost automatically are America rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and the WHO. Biden will also seek to send NATO a calming message that the United States is still committed to the alliance, after four years in which Trump treated NATO as a burden rather than an asset. Biden will also attempt to present himself as diverging from Trump with everything relating to Putin and Russia. He will also likely take a much more conciliatory approach with China, although he did not make that a major talking point in the campaign.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 835)

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