WASHINGTON – For the first time in a decade, Democrats will control both chambers of Congress, as well as the White House.
President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn into office Wednesday, has made clear his top priorities will be to not only reverse some of the policies implemented by President Donald Trump’s administration but also to push aggressive relief toward COVID-19 and several areas of progressive legislation.
Any of Biden's legislative priorities will have to pass through the Senate, which is narrowly Democratic-controlled but still requires at least 10 Republican votes to advance legislation and break a filibuster. Biden's proposals are likely to pass the Democratic-controlled House.
America is likely to experience a tidal wave in policy shifts. Here’s what some of those policies changes may include, how they may be achieved and what that means to your life:
Biden has made clear that one big change between his administration and Trump's will be the seriousness with which he approaches the coronavirus pandemic. While Trump has at times embraced conspiracy and downplayed the seriousness of the virus, Biden has said he would impress upon Americans the severity of the pandemic and urge precautions.
Biden says getting control of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a top priority as soon as he takes office, along with supporting Americans financially during the economic challenges that have come from the pandemic.
He has said he will urge Americans to wear masks consistently through the first 100 days of his administration and will order mask-wearing where possible, such as for federal employees.
He also introduced a $1.9 trillion spending package to speed the distribution of the coronavirus vaccines and provide economic relief. The package proposal includes investing $20 billion in a national vaccination program, $1,400 stimulus checks and expanding unemployment insurance supplements to $400 a week. Some Republicans in Congress have said Biden's plan is too expensive and misguided.
Biden’s goal is to provide 100 million vaccinations during the first 100 days of his administration starting Wednesday. The pace so far has been slower than that.
"I know what I just described does not come cheaply," Biden said upon announcing his package. "But failure to do so will cost us dearly."
Millions of Americans face uncertainty over their housing security as massive job losses driven by the pandemic have crippled citizens.
Biden will call on Congress to pass sweeping protections and financial relief for those at risk of losing their homes.
In addition to the $25 billion in aid approved in the most recent $900 billion stimulus package, Biden plans to ask lawmakers to approve $30 billion in rental assistance to stop a wave of evictions, according to CNBC. He will also ask Congress to extend eviction and foreclosure bans until Sept. 30.
Millions are on the verge of being evicted with the federal eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of January.
Additionally, Biden plans to provide a refundable tax credit of up to $15,000 that will help Americans pull together a down payment to purchase a home, shore up rental aid provided by the federal government, and dedicate $10 billion toward expanding a tax credit that spurs the building or revamping of rental housing for low-wage earners.
Biden also has proposed several steps to root out the systemic racism that has hindered the ability for people of color, particularly African Americans, to buy or hold on to property – from onerous interest rates that leave them vulnerable to falling behind on payments, ending up in foreclosure, to biases that undervalue homes simply because they are owned by Black people.
This would be a reversal from the Trump administration, whose Department of Housing and Urban Development and secretary, Ben Carson, suspended the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule.
The 2015 provision required communities receiving federal development money to submit plans to "overcome historic patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination."
Trump made it no secret that he was a skeptic on all things climate change.
As a result, nearly 100 environmental rollbacks occurred under the Trump administration over the past four years to loosen regulations on everything from air and water quality to wildlife.
Biden, who has called climate change "an existential threat to the health of our planet and to our very survival," has made it a focal point of his incoming administration. He has vowed to reverse some of the Trump administration's policies as well as enact more of his own to combat climate change.
He is likely to undo most of Trump’s environmental rollbacks with his executive powers.
Additionally, after Trump formally withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, the global pact forged five years ago among hundreds of nations to halt the devastating impacts of climate change, Biden has said the U.S. would rejoin the accord as soon as possible.
As a result of Trump’s withdrawal, the U.S. was the only internationally recognized country in the world not participating in the Paris Agreement.
Biden has pledged to rejoin the agreement immediately after being sworn into office.
Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it. https://t.co/L8UJimS6v2
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 5, 2020
Biden’s climate goals include 100% clean energy by 2035, vastly expanding wind and solar to get the nation to net-zero emissions by 2050, upgrading millions of buildings and homes to be more energy-efficient, plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, reclaiming mines and making environmental justice a key consideration.
Biden also said he will shift the federal fleet of vehicles from gas to electric, which will support 1 million jobs at carmakers and their supply chains. He has proposed the government would provide grants to retool factories, build 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles along highways, and expand high-speed and light rail.
Biden's proposal to spend $2 trillion over four years to spur the development of more energy without increasing greenhouse gas emissions requires Congress to go along.
Though Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaker for simple majority votes in the Senate, passing aggressive climate bills soon may be unlikely unless more Republican lawmakers jump on board than in years past.
Tougher immigration laws and promises of a border wall were cornerstones of Trump’s 2016 election campaign. Many of his rallies were filled with chants of “Build that wall!”
The National Foundation for American Policy projected in July that Trump’s immigration policies could reduce legal immigration by 49% by 2021.
Biden has vowed to reverse most of those restrictionist policies. The process of overturning many of the policies will be straightforward – he can sign executive orders and his agency heads can issue memos or directives overriding Trump policies – but some changes could take much longer to unwind.
Within the first 100 days of his presidency, Biden said, he would send Congress a comprehensive immigration reform plan, including a "pathway to citizenship" for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
One of the main points of contention immediately facing the Biden administration will be the state of the border.
While it is true the controversial migrant holding facilities were built in President Barack Obama's administration, their intended purpose was to hold migrant children for 72 hours before releasing them to federal agencies for placement.
Under Trump, family separations became a blanket policy applied to all undocumented immigrants crossing the border. All adults would be charged with criminal immigration violations, leading to separation from their children.
Biden can do some things to more quickly reverse the long-lasting effects, such as granting legal status to families that were separated, allowing parents who were deported to return, among other things he has teased.
Another border issue will be "the wall." Biden told NPR that he would not tear down any of the border barriers already built, but "there will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration."
Some border construction projects may still get built after Biden takes office because contracts may have already been signed.
Additionally, the new administration will need to address the status of refugees.
Biden will face intense pressure to grant entry to the tens of thousands of people who have been blocked from entering the U.S. by dozens of changes made by Trump.
Trump has blocked legal residents, relatives of U.S. citizens, refugees, asylum seekers, foreign workers and others for a variety of reasons, including national security and public health.
Trump has established record lows every year he has been in office. The refugee cap, which dictates how many refugees may be admitted to the U.S., has fallen from 110,000 in Obama’s final year in office to 15,000, announced by Trump in October, the lowest since the program was created in 1980.
Biden has pledged to set the annual refugee admissions cap at 125,000 and could immediately raise the cap through an executive order. But, transition officials have cautioned implementation might take time, given the amount of hiring needed to interview refugees, and structural issues.
Economic relief and reversing tax cuts
As the pandemic wreaks havoc on the economy in the United States, many are looking to the president-elect for relief and support.
The unemployment rate in the U.S. was 6.7% in December, which remained the same from the month before, and employers cut about 140,000 jobs, the Department of Labor announced last week. Women, though, took the brunt of job losses in December – accounting for 100% of the jobs lost that month.
While Biden’s proposed relief plan aims to address vaccine distribution and issues exacerbated by the pandemic, the proposal also provides a framework to stimulate the economy further. In addition to the $1,400 direct stimulus payments, Biden is also calling for the increase of hourly minimum wage to $15.
On top of coronavirus-related economic relief, Biden has also pledged to reverse Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed in 2017. It was the largest overhaul of tax codes in about three decades, and corporate tax rate changed from a tiered tax rate of 15%-39% to a flat rate of 21%. Many of the tax benefits that were set up to aid individuals and families expire in 2025.
Biden’s tax plan, on the other hand, takes a widely different approach – pushing higher taxes on corporations and individuals making more than $400,000 a year. Biden has also promised not to increase taxes for those making less than $400,000 and provide new and revised tax benefits for low- and middle-income families.
During Trump’s term, he had a mixed take when it came to gun control. While his administration tightened some restrictions, it also weakened others.
More notably, Trump killed an Obama-era regulation in 2017 that would have forced stricter background checks during gun sales. The reversal specifically addressed the rule that required the Social Security Administration to submit records of mentally disabled people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
About a year later, 14 students and staff were slain during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This sparked the widely recognized and student-led March for Our Lives movement, which called on the different levels of the U.S. government to tighten gun control, reduce access to lethal war-like weapons and implement stricter background checks.
Biden has outlined over 10 initiatives related to gun safety on his website, with some of the top priorities revolving around banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, implementing a buyback program and requiring background checks for sales of all guns.
Although it’s not clear when such policies may be implemented, Biden has an extensive history challenging the National Rifle Association. And as vice president, Biden developed legislative proposals and executive actions related to gun control, some of which addressed legal loopholes and expanding funding for mental health resources.
Still, gun control remains a widely debated topic among lawmakers in both chambers, on both sides of the aisle.
In his time in office, Trump has made attempt after attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act, which was passed while Biden was vice president. But now that Democrats control the Senate and the House, the path to expanding the ACA could get a little easier.
Congress could reasonably pass a series of expansions to the ACA, including measures to make insurance more affordable to more Americans. Biden has said he will strengthen the ACA when he takes office.
Biden has said he would raise the subsidies people can use to help them buy coverage through ACA marketplaces. He says no family will have to spend more than 8.5% of their earnings on health coverage because of refundable tax credits for their premiums.
And Americans could further cut down on their out-of-pocket costs because a Biden administration says it will lower the price of prescriptions by negotiating drug prices.
Biden, who has long said he is not a supporter of the single-payer policies favored by his progressive counterparts, has also expressed support for a public option that would be available to all Americans.
He is also likely to reverse Trump administration policies that excluded protections for transgender Americans and would likely prioritize expanding access to contraceptives and reproductive health care, including abortion.
Contributing: Daniel Gonzalez, Marc Ramirez, Sarah Taddeo, Tiffany Cusaac-Smith, Nicholas Wu, Ledyard King, Charisse Jones, Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Inauguration: What policy changes could President Biden make?