By: Mariya Ali, MPAC Policy Intern
Today marks the end of the first 100 days of President Biden’s time in the Oval Office. This period, though arguably arbitrary, has become a benchmark for presidents since the time of FDR, setting the tone for the administration and giving Americans a taste of their top priorities. Compared to his recent predecessors, President Biden has faced a particularly uphill battle upon inauguration. He inherited a global pandemic, an economic crisis, a tarnished international image, and a deeply divided America.
President Biden signed off on 11 new laws, less than half of the average number of laws signed by past 14 presidents, and only surpassing three of them. However, this may not be an indication that President Biden was not productive; he signed off on the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which is the second-largest piece of legislation in American history. President Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill ranks in terms of cost as the biggest piece of legislation ever passed during a president’s first 100 days.
When looking at executive orders (EOs), President Biden has thus far signed more orders than any of his predecessors within the same time period since FDR. He not only signed 40 EOs during his first 100 days in office, but revoked 39 of his predecessor’s, like the infamous Muslim Ban. He surpassed the past 14 presidents, and revoked the highest number of executive orders by a President in their first 100 days.
As we take a deep-dive into the Biden Administration’s first 100 days in office, we will assess some of the President’s successes and setbacks, and analyze the road ahead.
While numbers are certainly important in any benchmark test, a more important indicator is the substance and impact of the president’s policies. President Biden promised to tackle racial injustice head-on, set the example for diversity throughout the government and beyond, re-engage our global partners, and aggressively solve the COVID-19 crisis.
One of his first policies was to institute a whole-of-government executive order to advance racial equity. In our analysis of the Executive Order, we had found that the policy is now the closest America has ever come to producing comprehensive, systemic accountability for each federal department and agency’s contributions to perpetuating racial injustice.
As a part of his pledge to diversity, if enough of his nominations are confirmed by the Senate, President Biden is set to have the most diverse appointments in the history of America. The president has engaged the American Muslim community from the onset of his candidacy. On the campaign trail, he pledged to not only rescind the Muslim Ban, but to be more inclusive of American Muslims in his administration. He lived up those promises by revoking the Ban and appointing at least a dozen American Muslims to high level positions across the administration. The Biden Administration has sent a clear message that Muslims are a part of the core fabric of America.
Over the past four years, under Trump, the US stepped away from multilateral efforts to achieve solutions towards global issues, including climate change. The U.S. was pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization. President Biden has rejoined the Accords, reinstating the U.S.’ commitment to multilateral efforts to keep average global temperatures from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. With this action, the Biden Administration made clear its intent to keep the devastating effects of climate change to our planet a top priority.
In the face of the worst pandemic of our lifetime, President Biden had his work cut out for him. Under his leadership, America went from being the country with the most COVID-19 deaths confirmed worldwide to now vaccinating at a speed four times faster than the world average. One of President Biden’s top priorities was to help garner trust in the vaccine and make sure the CDC and disease experts had the support they needed from the president to inform the general public about precautions, safety measures, and other guidelines. President Biden’s initial goal was to have 100 million vaccine doses administered by his 100th day in office. This goal was met on his 59th day, and in March he announced a new goal of 200 million doses within his first 100 days in office.
The pandemic brought about a severe economic crisis, which resulted in widespread financial insecurity amongst Americans. Many were left out of work or underemployed as the virus spread. President Biden’s signature on the $1.9 trillion dollar relief bill included money for direct payments, which strengthened unemployment benefits and rental assistance.
President Biden has met his fair share of setbacks within his first 100 days as well. He promised that his administration would institute a national police oversight commission. However, in April, President Biden’s domestic policy adviser said that the administration believes the commision “would not be the most effective way to deliver on our top priority in this area.” He also promised to extend the Voting Rights Act, but his goal has been obstructed by partisan politics. A voting bill passed the House, but Republicans have unanimously opposed it, renewing discussions among Democrats about getting rid of the filibuster.
When the American Rescue plan was in the works, House Democrats included the $15 minimum wage. As negotiations progressed the Senate parliamentarian ruled that including the provision would not comply with budget reconciliation rules, and the minimum wage hike was ultimately not included in the COVID-19 relief package.
The first 100 days of a presidency serves as a benchmark to understand where the president’s priorities lie. The success and setbacks are viewed as early indicators of what the remainder of the term could look like. Past research has revealed that presidents generally have a greater rate of success in adopting their agendas in the first 100 days than later on in their presidential terms. Due to the extenuating circumstances that President Biden has inherited, however, this may not be the case this time around.
Having signed the American Rescue plan into law, President Biden is currently laying out his next big proposal: a $2 trillion dollar infrastructure plan. The country is in desperate need of repair. Recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure a C-, which is higher than the D+ received in 2017. The plan is framed as an investment in communities’ of color, and rural Americans who are burdened by decaying infrastructure. American Muslims are members of these communities, but have historically been underrepresented in these types of programs. The second part of the proposal focuses on the “care economy”, making investments in education, and child care.
Looking ahead, the path to recovery will not be easy, but the vaccine rollout has been one of the most efficient and effective worldwide. Vaccination rates remain low amongst younger people, conservatives, and people of color. We must overcome that challenge to emerge out of the pandemic. President Biden’s executive orders and policy platforms indicate that accountability is a non-negotiable priority for his presidency. As we move further along into the Biden Administration, we look forward to seeing progress on key issues that impact the community and our nation.