In just his seventh day in office, President Joe Biden announced new steps to dramatically increase vaccine supply and enable states to book appointments with greater assurance of knowing how many doses they will have three weeks in advance.
He announced the purchase of 200 million more doses, which with the doses already purchased from Pfizer and Moderna, would be enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans by summer. But he cautioned that it will take months before the nation achieves herd immunity, the situation will get worse before it gets better, with as many as 100,000 more deaths from COVID-19 by next month.
He emphasized that wearing a mask is still the best way for the foreseeable future to protect lives – as many as 50,000 could be saved by April. Wearing a mask is not just patriotic, he said, but will be mandated in federal property and in interstate transportation, such as airports and depots, and on airplanes, trains, and buses.
Here is more from the Biden administration:
Just over a year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States, the nation has hit another grim milestone in the pandemic, reaching 25 million infections and counting. The pace in which this virus has spread throughout the U.S. is staggering and with new variants emerging, the spread is not slowing any time soon. That’s why it is critical that we vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
President Biden has a comprehensive National Action Strategy to put the pandemic behind us and he and the COVID-19 response team are aggressively implementing it. Today, the President is announcing bold steps that will help meet the goal of administering 100 million shots in 100 days and ramp up vaccine supply as fast as possible. As a result of these actions, the federal government will have enough vaccine supply for the entire U.S. population by the end of the summer.
The President is taking the following actions today:
An Increase in Weekly Vaccine Supply to States, Tribes and Territories: The Biden-Harris Administration will increase overall, weekly vaccine supply to states, Tribes and territories from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses. This increase of 1.4 million doses per week will allow millions more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. The Administration is committing to maintaining this as the minimum supply level for the next three weeks.
Increased transparency for States, Tribes, and Territories to Help Their Vaccination Efforts: The Biden-Harris Administration is taking action to provide states, Tribes and territories with a reliable three-week supply look-ahead. The Department of Health and Human Services will provide allocation estimates for the upcoming three weeks as opposed to the one week look-ahead that they previously received. This increased transparency will give state and local leaders greater certainty around supply so that they can plan their vaccination efforts and administer vaccines effectively and efficiently.
Purchase 200 Million Additional Doses to Be Delivered This Summer, Double the Nation’s Vaccine Supply: President Biden directed his COVID-19 Response Coordinator to work with HHS to increase our total vaccine supply for the American people. The Biden-Harris Administration is working to purchase an additional 100 million doses of each of the two Food and Drug Administration-authorized vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna. This increases the total vaccine order for the U.S. by 50%, from 400 million to 600 million with these additional doses expected to deliver this summer. With these additional doses, the U.S. will have enough vaccine to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of this summer.
This afternoon, President Biden outlined his vision and new elements of his agenda for advancing racial equity for Americans who have been underserved and left behind, signing four executive actions to advance racial equity and take the first steps to root out systemic racism in housing and criminal justice.
“Equal opportunity is the fundamental promise of America. But systemic racism and discrimination in our economy, laws, and institutions have put the promise of America out of reach for too many families of color,” he stated.
President Biden renewed the federal government’s commitment to making the American Dream real for families across the nation by taking bold and ambitious steps to root out inequity from our economy and expand opportunities for communities of color and other underserved Americans.
His executive orders direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies that have contributed to wealth inequality for generations; end the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) use of private prisons; recommitted the federal government to respect Tribal sovereignty and strengthen the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Tribal Nations; and combat xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
These orders build on actions the President took during his first week in office to advance equity, which historians have described as one of the most robust efforts to advance racial justice in the first weeks of any new administration. On his first day in office, President Biden signed an unprecedented Executive Order establishing a whole-of-government initiative to address racial equity and support underserved communities, and redress systemic racism in federal policies, laws, and programs. He took immediate action to roll back harmful policies, such as President Trump’s 1776 Commission and ban on diversity and inclusion training for federal employees and contractors. In the days ahead, President Biden will reinvigorate the federal government’s role as a model employer by expanding and building on the efforts of the Obama-Biden Administration, by requiring all agencies to take affirmative steps to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as by requiring accessibility.
President Biden committed to embedding racial equity across his Administration’s response to COVID-19 and the economic crisis. In his first week in office, he signed executive actions to provide relief to American families that will aid families of color that are being disproportionately impacted by this economic crisis. He directed the Department of Agriculture to address the growing crisis of hunger facing more than one in five Black and Latino households by increasing access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures, issuing new guidance to help an additional 12 million Americans access nutrition assistance, and beginning the process to increase the value of supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits to better reflect today’s grocery costs.
The President extended the pause on federal student loan payments and collections, protecting borrowers burdened by educational debt, who are disproportionately Americans of color. He extended the federal government’s foreclosure and eviction moratoriums until February 28, 2021, helping families who are more likely to be rent burdened to stay safely housed. President Biden directed the Department of Treasury to take steps to make the delivery of stimulus benefits more equitable to help the 8 million households, many of whom are families of color, who never received the first stimulus checks they were entitled to. And, the President began the process of requiring federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave to workers bringing financial relief to low wage workers.
These actions are just the start. The President is committed to working with Congress to pass bold legislation that advances racial equity, including increasing funding for small businesses, investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions, and tripling funding for Title I schools, which serve a majority of low-income students. As the President has said, he is focused on ensuring that small businesses owned by people of color and others who have been historically disadvantaged – many of whom were shut out of previous relief packages – receive support.
And President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will provide immediate, direct relief to communities and families bearing the brunt of the crisis – including communities and families of color. Economists estimate that the investments in the American Rescue Plan will lift over eight million Black, Latino, and Asian Americans out of poverty and will provide relief across sectors where families of color are most disproportionately impacted in this crisis: in food and financial security, healthcare access, and education and child care. The President’s rescue plan will expand protections for frontline workers, 40 percent of whom are people of color. It will increase and extend Unemployment Insurance benefits, supporting the one in ten Black workers and one in eleven Latino workers who are unemployed. And, the plan will provide critical relief to Native American communities and Tribes.
Before signing the additional executive orders, President Biden remarked, “In my campaign for President, I made it very clear that the moment had arrived as a nation where we face deep racial inequities in America and system- — systemic racism that has plagued our nation for far, far too long.
“I said it over the course of the past year that the blinders had been taken come off the nation of the American people. What many Americans didn’t see, or had simply refused to see, couldn’t be ignored any longer.
“Those 8 minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd’s life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people around — all over the world. It was the knee on the neck of justice, and it wouldn’t be forgotten. It stirred the conscience of tens of millions of Americans, and, in my view, it marked a turning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice…
“COVID-19 has further ripped a path of destruction through every community in America, but no one has been spared, but the devastation in communities of color has been nothing short of stunning. Just look at the numbers: 40 percent of frontline workers — nurses, first responders, grocery store workers — are Americans of color, and many are still living on the edge. One in ten black Americans is out of work today. One in eleven Latino Americans is out of work today. One in seven households in America — about one in four black, one in five Latino households in America — report that they don’t have enough food to eat in the United States of America.
“Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans. And it’s not white Americans’ fault, but it’s just a fact. And the Americans now know it, especially younger Americans.
“One of the reasons I’m so optimistic about this nation is that today’s generation of young Americans is the most progressive, thoughtful, inclusive generation that America has ever seen. And they are pulling us toward justice in so many ways, forcing us to confront the huge gap in economic inequity between those at the top and everyone else, forcing us to confront the existential crisis of climate; and, yes, forcing us to confront systemic racism and white supremacy.
“It’s just been weeks since all of America witnessed a group of thugs, insurrectionists, political extremists, and white supremacists violently attack the Capitol of our democracy. And so now — now is the time to act. It’s time to act because that’s what the faith and morality calls us to do…
“We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives. And it’s time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because if we do, we’ll all be better off for it.
“For too long, we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester. You know, we’ve — we’ve bought the view that America is a zero-sum game in many cases: ‘If you succeed, I fail.’ ‘If you get ahead, I fall behind.’ ‘If you get the job, I lose mine.’ Maybe worst of all, ‘If I hold you down, I lift myself up.’
“We’ve lost sight of what President Kennedy told us when he said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” And when we lift each other up, we’re all lifted up. You know, and the corollary is true as well: When any one of us is held down, we’re all held back. More and more economic studies in recent years have proven this, but I don’t think you need economic studies to see the truth.
“Just imagine if instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, we gave each and every three- and four-year-old child a chance to learn, to go to school — not daycare, school — and grow and thrive in school and throughout. When they’ve done that — the places it’s been done, it shows they have an exponentially greater chance of going all the way through 12 years of school and doing it well.
But, you know, does anyone — does anyone in this whole nation think we’re not all better off if that were to happen?
“Just imagine if instead of denying millions of Americans the ability to own a home and build generational wealth — who made it possible for them buy a home, their first home — and begin to build equity to provide for their families and send their children off to school, does anyone doubt that the whole nation will be better off?
“Just imagine: Instead of denying millions of young entrepreneurs the ability to access capital, we made it possible to take their dream to market, create jobs, reinvest in their own communities. Does anyone doubt this whole nation wouldn’t be better off?
“Just imagine if more incredibly creative and innovative — how much more creative and innovative we’d be if this nation held — held the historic black colleges and universities to the same opportunities — and minority-serving institutions — that had the same funding and resources of public universities to compete for jobs and industries of the future. You know, just ask the first HBCU graduate elected as Vice President if that’s not true.
“But to do this, I believe this nation and this government need to change their whole approach to the issue of racial equal- — equity. Yes, we need criminal justice reform, but that isn’t nearly enough. We need to open the promise of America to every American. And that means we need to make the issue of racial equity not just an issue for any one department of government; it has to be the business of the whole of government.
“That’s why I issued, among the first days, my whole-of-government executive order that will, for the first time, advance equity for all throughout our federal policies and institutions. It focuses on the full range of communities who have been long underserved and overlooked: people of color; Americans with disabilities; LGBTQ Americans; religious minorities; rural, urban, suburban communities facing persistent poverty.
“And I’ve asked Ambassador Susan Rice to lead the administration’s charge through the White House and Domestic Policy Council because I know she’ll see it through. Every White House, every White House component, and every agency will be involved in this work because advancing equity has to be everyone’s job….
“In the weeks ahead, I’ll be reaffirming the federal government’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and accessibility, building on the work we started in the Obama-Biden administration. That’s why I rescinded the previous administration’s harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training, and abolished the offensive, counter-factual 1776 Commission. Unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies….
“I ran for President because I believe we’re in a battle for the soul of this nation. And the simple truth is, our soul will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to persist. We can’t eliminate it if — it’s not going to be overnight. We can’t eliminate everything.
“But it’s corrosive, it’s destructive, and it’s costly. It costs every American, not just who have felt the sting of racial injustice. We aren’t just less of a — we are not just a nation of morally deprived because of systemic racism; we’re also less prosperous, we’re less successful, we’re less secure.
“So, we must change, and I know it’s going to take time. But I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change, but government has to change as well. We need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day — today, tomorrow, and every day.
Here’s a summary of the additional executive actions fostering racial equity that President Biden signed:
Advance Fair Housing. President Biden will sign a Presidential Memorandum “Redressing Our Nation’s and the Federal Government’s History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies.” This memorandum recognizes the central role the federal government has played implementing housing policies across the United States, from redlining to mortgage discrimination to destructive federal highway construction, that have had racially discriminatory impacts. The Fair Housing Act requires the federal government to advance fair housing and combat housing discrimination, including disparate impact discrimination that appears neutral but has an unjustified discriminatory effect in practice. This Presidential Memorandum directs HUD to examine the effects of the previous Administration’s regulatory actions that undermined fair housing policies and laws. And, it directs HUD to take steps necessary based on that analysis to fully implement the Fair Housing Act’s requirements.
Reform our Incarceration System to End the Use of Private Prisons. More than two million people are currently incarcerated in the United States, and a disproportionate number of these individuals are people of color. Mass incarceration imposes significant costs on our society and communities, while private prisons profiteer off of federal prisoners in less safe conditions for prisoners and correctional officers alike. President Biden is committed to reducing mass incarceration while making our communities safer. That starts with ending DOJ’s reliance on private prisons. The Order directs the Attorney General not to renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities.
Reaffirm the Federal Government’s Commitment to Tribal Sovereignty and Consultation. The Biden Administration is committed to re-establishing federal respect for Tribal sovereignty, strengthening the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the federal government and American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, empowering self-determination, and advancing racial justice for Native communities. This Executive Order reinvigorates the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with Tribal governments.
Combat Xenophobia Against Asian American and Pacific Islanders. While bullying and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) is a long-standing and unacceptable problem in our country, rates of harassment and violence against AAPIs have risen dramatically in the past year. President Biden will sign a Presidential Memorandum acknowledging the harm that these actions have caused, and establishing that the policy of his Administration is to condemn and denounce anti-Asian bias and discrimination. This Memorandum directs the Department of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, to consider issuing guidance describing best practices to advance cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards AAPIs in the federal government’s COVID-19 response. It also directs the Department of Justice to partner with AAPI communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment against AAPIs.
The President Releases National COVID-19 Strategy and Signs Executive Actions to Expand Testing, Administer Vaccines, Advance Racial Equity, and Safely Reopen Schools and Businesses
Today, on his first full day in the White House, President Joe Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness — a comprehensive, 198-page roadmap to guide America out of this pandemic. To jumpstart this strategy, he signed 10 Executive Orders and other directives and took additional actions to move quickly to contain the COVID-19 crisis by expanding testing, administering vaccines, advancing racial equity, and safely reopening schools and businesses. These steps build on actions President Biden took yesterday to rejoin the World Health Organization, encourage masking, and to create his White House COVID-19 Response Team.
Here are more details on the steps that President Biden took today to immediately put his National Strategy into action.
IMMEDIATELY EXPAND EMERGENCY RELIEF AND EXERCISE THE DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT (DPA)
Manufacture and Deliver Supplies for Vaccination, Testing, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) President Biden is taking immediate action to fill supply shortfalls for vaccination supplies, testing supplies, and PPE, and to ensure that these critical supplies equitably reach American communities, especially communities of color and other underserved communities hit hardest by the virus. The President will issue an Executive Order directing relevant agencies to exercise all appropriate authorities, including the DPA, to accelerate manufacturing, delivery, and administration to meet shortfalls in equipment and supplies needed for the COVID-19 response, beginning with action to increase the availability of critical supplies such as N95 masks, isolation gowns, nitrile gloves, PCR sample collection swabs, test reagents, pipette tips, laboratory analysis machines for PCR tests, high-absorbency foam swabs, nitrocellulose material for rapid antigen tests, rapid test kits, and all the necessary equipment and material to accelerate the manufacture, delivery, and administration of COVID-19 vaccine.
Reimburse States So They Can Deploy the Emergency Personnel and Supplies Americans Need The President will issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to increase federal reimbursement to states and Tribes from 75 percent to 100 percent of the cost for National Guard personnel and emergency supplies, such as PPE, cleaning and sanitizing efforts, and the personnel and equipment needed to create vaccination centers. The order also includes restoring full reimbursement for eligible costs necessary to support safe school reopening through the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund. To help address the health and financial crises faced by Tribal Nations throughout our country and to advance Tribal sovereignty in our COVID-19 response, this Memorandum also expands FEMA resources for Tribal governments.
MITIGATE SPREAD THROUGH EXPANDING TESTING, TREATMENT, AND THE PUBLIC HEALTH WORKFORCE, AND ESTABLISHING CLEAR PUBLIC HEALTH STANDARDS
Establish the Pandemic Testing Board, Expand Testing, and Strengthen the Public Health Workforce To control the COVID-19 pandemic and safely reopen schools and businesses, the U.S. must have wide-spread testing. President Biden will issue an Executive Order that establishes the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to bring the full force of the federal government’s expertise to expanding testing supply and increasing access to testing. The federal government will increase testing capacity by directing the use of the DPA and other authorities to procure more tests and expand manufacturing capacity where possible. The Executive Order will promote surge capacity for testing in the United States, onshore test manufacturing, expand the public health workforce, support COVID-19 screening for schools, and ensure that underserved communities, including communities of color, can equitably access tests.
Bolster Access to COVID-19 Treatments and Clinical Care Effective treatments for COVID-19 are critical to saving lives. President Biden will sign an Executive Order directing studies, including large-scale randomized trials, to identify treatments for COVID-19 and to ensure that such studies address the needs of diverse populations. The Executive Order establishes a comprehensive, integrated, equitable, and coordinated preclinical drug discovery and development program to allow therapeutics to be evaluated and developed in response to pandemic threats. The Order also outlines steps to improve clinical care, provide assistance to long-term care facilities and intermediate care facilities for people with disabilities, increase health care workforce capacity, expand access to programs designed to meet long-term health needs of patients recovering from COVID-19, and support access to safe and effective COVID-19 therapies for those without coverage.
Improve Data to Combat COVID-19 Metrics and metric-driven public health guidance will be essential to controlling the pandemic. President Biden’s Executive Order will enhance the United States’ collection, production, sharing, and analysis of data to support an equitable COVID-19 response and recovery. The federal government will work with state, local, Tribal and territorial governments to aggregate and analyze data to track access to vaccines and testing, reopen schools and businesses, and address disparities in COVID-19 infections and health outcomes. And, the federal government will create publicly available dashboards with national and state-by-state level information, consistent with privacy protections, on cases, testing, vaccinations, and hospital admissions to make real-time information available to policymakers and the public.
MOUNT A SAFE, EFFECTIVE, COMPREHENSIVE VACCINATION CAMPAIGN
Take Immediate Actions to Convert Vaccines into Vaccinations The Biden-Harris Administration will spare no effort to ensure the public can get vaccinated safely, effectively and equitably. To meet the aggressive vaccination target of 100 million shots by the end of his first 100 days in office, President Biden will take immediate action to improve the vaccination program. Yesterday, he directed FEMA to begin standing up the first federally-supported community vaccination centers, with the goal of standing up 100 centers in the next month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also launch the federal pharmacy program — making vaccines available to communities in their local pharmacies beginning next month. And, he tasked the U.S. Public Health Services Commissioned Corps with expanding its workforce and preparing for deployment. Central to this effort will be expanded support and collaboration with state, local, Tribal and territorial governments, including the establishment of COVID Response Liaisons for each state — a model based on the response to Hurricane Sandy.
SAFELY REOPEN SCHOOLS, BUSINESSES, AND TRAVEL WHILE PROTECTING OUR WORKERS
Direct Action to Support Students & Safely Reopen Schools President Biden will issue an Executive Order directing the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide guidance on safe reopening and operating for schools, child care providers, and institutions of higher education. Ensuring the safety of students and educators and adherence to science will be paramount. And, the Order directs the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to collect data around reopening and school closures so state and local officials have metrics to inform decision-making and can better understand the impact of closures on students from families with low-incomes, students of color, English-language learners, students with disabilities and others.
The COVID-19 Response Team will work to ensure that testing materials, support for contact tracing, and vaccinations for teachers are equitably provided to support in-person care and learning. Finally, the order encourages the Federal Communications Commission to increase connectivity options for students lacking reliable home broadband, so that they can continue to learn if their schools are operating remotely.
This work will be supported by the Presidential Memorandum directing FEMA to offer reimbursement for eligible emergency supplies, such as PPE for schools and child care providers.
The Administration will engage with educators and their unions, students and their families, state and local education and public health officials, civil rights advocates, and other experts in the field. And, the Department of Education will work with HHS to ensure that guidance for schools is updated based on the latest science and any developments in the pandemic, including the spread of new coronavirus variants that may have a higher transmission rate. The Administration will always be honest about the challenges we face, directly addressing how and whether changes in the pandemic may impact the reopening of schools or the ability of schools to remain open.
Help Protect Workers from COVID-19 Millions of Americans, many of whom are people of color, immigrants, and low-wage workers, continue to put their lives on the line to keep the country functioning through the pandemic. President Biden will sign an Executive Order calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to immediately release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure. It also asks OSHA and Mine Safety and Health Administration to determine whether to establish emergency temporary standards that require employers to take steps to keep workers safe from COVID-19 and it directs OSHA to enforce worker health and safety requirements, targeting the worst violators. With the goal of protecting all workers from COVID-19, the order instructs agencies to explore ways to protect workers who are not always covered by OSHA standards, such as those who are self-employed.
Promote Safe Travel To protect travelers from COVID-19, President Biden will issue an Executive Order to require mask-wearing in airports, on certain modes of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes, maritime vessels, and intercity buses. For air travel, this Executive Order also requires international travelers to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departing for the United States and to comply with CDC guidelines for self-isolation and self-quarantine upon arrival. The Executive Order also calls for the consideration of additional public health measures in domestic travel and for consultation with foreign governments and other stakeholders to implement public health measures for safe travel, including at land and sea borders.
PROTECT THOSE MOST AT RISK AND ADDRESS INEQUITIES FACED BY COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AND OTHER UNDERSERVED GROUPS
Advance Health Equity in the Nation’s COVID-19 Response In order to address the disproportionate and severe impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and other underserved populations, President Biden will issue an Executive Order to ensure an equitable pandemic response and recovery. The order establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to provide specific recommendations to the President for allocating resources and funding in communities with inequities in COVID-19 outcomes by race, ethnicity, geography, disability, and other considerations. The federal government will expand equity data collection; increase access to PPE, testing, therapies, and vaccines in underserved communities and high-risk settings; and assess and update pandemic response plans to ensure equity. The health workforce, including community-based workers, will be expanded to assist with contact tracing, vaccination, and linkage to care. Additionally, the Biden Administration will work with states, local jurisdictions, Tribal communities, and territories to address unmet basic needs, including food, housing, and childcare, for individuals and families affected by COVID-19.
RESTORE U.S. GLOBAL LEADERSHIP AND BUILD BETTER PREPAREDNESS
Advance U.S. Global Leadership, Support the Health and Humanitarian Response to COVID-19, and Protect Against Future Biological Threats America’s withdrawal from the world stage and retreat from the World Health Organization has impeded progress on the global COVID-19 response and left the United States and the world more vulnerable to future pandemics. Yesterday, President Biden signed letters to the United Nations Secretary General and World Health Organization Director General to cease America’s withdrawal from the organization and to outline U.S. intent to work constructively with the WHO to strengthen and reform it. Today, President Biden will sign a Presidential Directive to restore America’s leadership, support the international pandemic response effort, promote resilience for future threats, and advance global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda. This directive restores U.S. leadership and seeks to support the international health and humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its secondary impacts, global health security and diplomacy, and better biopreparedness and resilience for emerging and future biological threats.
RACIAL EQUITY IMPACT
The COVID-19 crisis has shined a light on and exacerbated the persistent racial inequities in our healthcare system and our economy. Americans of color are being infected and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates, while workers of color disproportionately put themselves at risk of exposure to COVID-19 on the frontline of this crisis to keep our country running. Changing the course of the COVID-19 crisis requires mobilizing an equitable response across the whole of our government. The new COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force will intensely focus on these issues. The actions to expand the availability of testing and vaccines in communities of color, and other underserved communities, ensure that new clinical treatments are developed to serve diverse Americans, and safely reopen our schools so that children who are facing disproportionately high risks of learning loss can get back into the classroom. These actions will also support Native communities and Tribal governments to address the health and economic crises in Indian country.
These executive actions will help keep millions of workers healthy and safe from COVID-19. They direct agencies to provide new guidance so that employers and schools know what they need to do to keep workers safe. They’ll increase access to personal protective equipment, testing, and vaccines that will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces across the country. They’ll help ensure more people are wearing masks when they travel, immediately providing more protection to many airline workers, bus drivers, and other transportation workers, and providing Americans safe ways to travel to work.
With the support of funding from the President’s American Rescue Package, the President’s plan to safely reopen schools will help students engage in in-person learning, parents return to work and prevent more educators from being laid off, as we combat the virus and make schools safe for students and educators again.
These measures will help keep workers safe and healthy, get more Americans back to work, and ultimately reduce the spread of the virus.
(Psst: I’m sharing with you inside information on Joe Biden’s first actions in the first days of becoming President of the United States. Has anyone been this prepared, this ready from Day One to act on what was promised during the campaign? Or for that matter, to have key appointments and personnel standing by.)
Memo from Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain to Incoming White House Senior Staff on the First Ten Days of the Administration
From: Ron Klain, Chief of Staff To: Incoming White House Senior Staff Re: Overview of First Ten Days Date: January 16, 2021 President-elect Biden is assuming the presidency in a moment of profound crisis for our nation. We face four overlapping and compounding crises: the COVID-19 crisis, the resulting economic crisis, the climate crisis, and a racial equity crisis. All of these crises demand urgent action. In his first ten days in office, President-elect Biden will take decisive action to address these four crises, prevent other urgent and irreversible harms, and restore America’s place in the world.
During the campaign, President-elect Biden pledged to take immediate action to start addressing these crises and build back better. As president, he will keep those promises and sign dozens of executive orders, presidential memoranda, and directives to Cabinet agencies in fulfillment of the promises he made. These executive actions will deliver relief to the millions of Americans that are struggling in the face of these crises. President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward.
These actions will change the course of COVID-19, combat climate change, promote racial equity and support other underserved communities, and rebuild our economy in ways that strengthen the backbone of this country: the working men and women who built our nation. While the policy objectives in these executive actions are bold, I want to be clear: the legal theory behind them is well-founded and represents a restoration of an appropriate, constitutional role for the President.
Full achievement of the Biden-Harris Administration’s policy objectives requires not just the executive actions the president-elect has promised to take, but also robust Congressional action. The president-elect made the case for his first major legislative proposal earlier this week, and will continue to advance legislative solutions to critical problems, such as in the immigration bill he will send to Congress on his first day in office; the build back better recovery proposal to create millions of good-paying union jobs that he will unveil in the coming weeks; and his ongoing support for legislation related to voting rights, the minimum wage, combatting violence against women, and more.
In order to highlight the actions the president-elect is taking, we are spreading these initial executive actions over a ten-day period. An outline of the president-elect’s plan for this period appears below. This list is not exhaustive; additional actions will be added as they complete a final legal clearance process.
On Inauguration Day, President-elect Biden will sign roughly a dozen actions to combat the four crises, restore humanity to our immigration system, and make government function for the people. As previously announced, he will ask the Department of Education to extend the existing pause on student loan payments and interest for millions of Americans with federal student loans, re-join the Paris Agreement, and reverse the Muslim Ban. The president-elect will launch his “100 Day Masking Challenge” by issuing a mask mandate on federal property and inter-state travel — part of a critical effort to begin to bend the curve on COVID. And, we will take action to extend nationwide restrictions on evictions and foreclosures and provide more than 25 million Americans greater stability, instead of living on the edge every month.
On January 21, the president-elect will sign a number of executive actions to move aggressively to change the course of the COVID-19 crisis and safely re-open schools and businesses, including by taking action to mitigate spread through expanding testing, protecting workers, and establishing clear public health standards.
On January 22, the president-elect will direct his Cabinet agencies to take immediate action to deliver economic relief to working families bearing the brunt of this crisis.
Between January 25 and February 1, the president-elect will sign additional executive actions, memoranda and Cabinet directives. The president-elect will fulfill his promises to strengthen Buy American provisions so the future of America is made in America. He will take significant early actions to advance equity and support communities of color and other underserved communities. He will take action to begin fulfilling campaign promises related to reforming our criminal justice system. The president-elect will sign additional executive actions to address the climate crisis with the urgency the science demands and ensure that science guides the administration’s decision making. President-elect Biden will take first steps to expand access to health care – including for low-income women and women of color. He will fulfill his promises to restore dignity to our immigration system and our border policies, and start the difficult but critical work of reuniting families separated at the border. And, President-elect Biden will demonstrate that America is back and take action to restore America’s place in the world.
As noted above, this list is not comprehensive. More items and more details will be forthcoming in the days ahead.
Of course, these actions are just the start of our work. Much more will need to be done to fight COVID-19, build our economy back better, combat systemic racism and inequality, and address the existential threat of the climate crisis. But by February 1st, America will be moving in the right direction on all four of these challenges — and more — thanks to President-elect Joe Biden’s leadership.
Everything about Joe Biden who takes the oath of office of President of the United States on January 20 at 12:01 pm is polar opposite his predecessor, but is most clear in his focus, emphasis and respect for science. And each one of his speeches announcing his administration appointments could stand as an Inaugural Address – again, polar opposite to “American Carnage” that turned out not to be an assessment but Trump’s agenda. Each of his nominees and appointees has been expert, experienced, intelligent and dedicated to their mission as well as public service. In announcing his key science advisors, Biden said that the single word he used to explain the United States was “possibilities.”
“That’s what the people on this stage — and the departments they will lead — represent. They are the ones asking the most American of questions — what’s next? What is the next big breakthrough? How can we make the impossible possible?
“They were asking questions as a call to action. To inspire. To help us imagine the future and figure out how to make it real and improve the lives of the American people…
“We know that science is discovery, not fiction. It’s also about hope. And that’s America. It’s in the DNA of this country. We’re on the cusp of some of the most remarkable breakthroughs that will fundamentally change our way of life. We can make more progress in the next 10 years than we made in the last 50 years. But we also face some of the most dire crises in generations, where science is critical to whether we meet this moment of peril with the promise we know that is in reach.”
Biden has charged his team to focus on five key areas: the pandemic and public health; the economy and shared prosperity; solving the climate crisis with American jobs; restoring America’s technological leadership in the global marketplace; and ensuring health and trust in science and technology in the nation.
“These are each questions that are calls to action.”
Dr. Eric Lander to be Presidential Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, an office that is being elevated to Cabinet rank.
Dr. Alondra Nelson as Deputy Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
Dr. Frances Arnold as Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Dr. Maria Zuber as Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
Dr. Francis Collins will stay on as Director of the National Institutes of Health
Biden added, “to the American people, this is the team that will help restore your faith in America’s place on the frontier of science and discovery and hope.”
Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks in Wilmington, Del., January 16, 2021 announcing his key science advisors: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Two of the most extraordinary, yet least known, departments at the White House are the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
They are composed of some of the most brilliant scientific minds in the world.
When I was vice president I had an intense interest in everything they were doing and I paid enormous attention to these issues.
As president, I’ll pay great attention to these issues again.
When I travelled the world as vice president, I was often asked to explain America to other world leaders.
And I remember one conversation vividly I had with Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader.
He asked me if I could explain America to him. And I said, “Yes, I could. In one word: Possibilities.”
That’s what the people on this stage — and the departments they will lead — represent.
They are the ones asking the most American of questions — what’s next? What is the next big breakthrough? How can we make the impossible possible?
And they weren’t just asking questions for the sake of it.
They were asking questions as a call to action.
To inspire. To help us imagine the future and figure out how to make it real and improve the lives of the American people.
This the team that asks us to imagine every home in America being powered by renewable energy within the next 10 years.
Imagine 3D printers restoring tissues after traumatic injuries and hospitals printing organs for organ transplants.
Imagine, and then rally the scientific community to do it.
Using science, data, and discovery was a governing philosophy of the Obama-Biden administration.
On everything from the economy and environment, to criminal justice reform and national security. And, on health care.
For example, a belief in science led to our efforts to map the human brain and to develop more precise and individualized medicine.
And it led to our ongoing mission to end cancer as we know it — something that is deeply personal to my family, to Kamala’s family, and countless families across America.
When President Obama asked me to lead the Cancer Moonshot, I knew we had to inject a sense of urgency in the fight.
We believed we could double the rate of progress and do in five years what would take ten.
Jill and I traveled around the country and the world, meeting with thousands of cancer patients and their families, physicians, researchers, philanthropists, technology leaders, and heads of states.
We sought to better understand and break down the silos and stovepipes that prevent sharing of information and impede advances in cancer research and treatment, while building a focused and coordinated effort at home and abroad.
We made progress, but there is so much more we can do.
When I announced that I would not run for president in 2015, I said that I had only one regret — that I wouldn’t be the president who presided over the end of cancer as we know it.
As president, I will do everything we can to get it done.
It will be a top priority for me and Kamala, and a signature issue for Jill as First Lady.
We know that science is discovery, not fiction. It’s also about hope.
And that’s America. It’s in the DNA of this country.
We’re on the cusp of some of the most remarkable breakthroughs that will fundamentally change our way of life.
We can make more progress in the next 10 years than we made in the last 50 years.
But we also face some of the most dire crises in generations, where science is critical to whether we meet this moment of peril with the promise we know that is in reach.
In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt asked his science advisor: how could the United States further advance scientific research in the crucial years following the Second World War. The response led to some of the most groundbreaking discoveries over the last 75 years.
We can do it again.
So today, I am proud to announce the team of some of the country’s most brilliant and accomplished scientists to lead the way.
I’m asking them to focus on five key areas to start.
First, the pandemic and what can we learn about what is possible, or what should be possible, to address the widest range of our public health needs?
Second, the economy, and how can we build back better to ensure prosperity is fully shared across America and among all Americans?
Third, how can science help us confront the climate crisis with American jobs and ingenuity?
Fourth, how can we ensure the United States leads the world in the technologies and industries of the future that will be critical to our economic prosperity and national security, especially as we compete with China and other nations?
And fifth, how can we ensure the long-term health and trust in science and technology in our nation?
These are each questions that are calls to action.
And I am honored to announce the team that is answering the call to serve.
As Presidential Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy — I nominate Dr. Eric Lander.
A pioneer in the scientific community. A principal leader of the Human Genome Project.
It’s not hyperbole to suggest that Dr. Lander’s work has changed the course of human history.
His role in helping us map the genome pulled back the curtain on human disease, allowing scientists ever since — and for generations to come — to explore the molecular basis for some of the most devastating illnesses affecting our world.
And the applications of his pioneering work are poised to lead to incredible cures and breakthroughs in the years to come. Dr. Lander now serves as the president and founding director of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard — the world’s foremost non-profit genetic research organization.
I came to appreciate Dr. Lander’s extraordinary mind when he served as a Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during the Obama-Biden administration.
I’m grateful we can work together again.
I have always said that the Biden-Harris administration will also lead with science and truth.
That’s how we’re going to overcome this pandemic and build our country back better than before. And that’s why, for the first time in history, I will be elevating the Presidential Science Advisor to Cabinet rank.
As Deputy Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, I appoint Dr. Alondra Nelson.
A professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. President of the Social Science Research Council.
And one of America’s leading scholars, an award-winning author and researcher exploring the connections between science and our society.
The daughter of a military family — her Dad served in the Navy, while her mom was an Army cryptographer.
Dr. Nelson developed a love of technology from a young age — tinkering with the early computing products and code-breaking equipment she grew up with in her home.
And that passion forged a lifelong curiosity about the inequities and the power dynamics that sit beneath the surface of scientific research and the technologies we build.
Dr. Nelson has fused those insights into science and technology and society, like few before her in history.
Breaking new ground in our understanding of the role that science plays in American life, and opening the door to a future in which science better serves all people.
As Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, I appoint Dr. Frances Arnold.
Director of the Rosen Bioengineering Center at CalTech. One of the world’s leading experts in protein engineering. A lifelong champion of renewable energy solutions who has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Not only is she the first woman to be elected to all three of the National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering, she is also the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
A daughter of Pittsburgh — she worked as a cab driver and a jazz club server before making her way to Princeton and Berkeley and a career on the leading edge of human discovery.
She survived breast cancer, and overcame tragic losses in her family, while rising to the top of a field still overwhelmingly dominated by men.
Her passion has been a steadfast commitment to renewable energy for the betterment of our planet and of humankind.
She is an inspiring figure to scientists across fields and across nations.
And I want to thank Dr. Arnold for agreeing to join us as Co-Chair of the first all-woman team to lead the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which leads me to the next member of the team.
As Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, I appoint Dr. Maria Zuber.
A trailblazing geophysicist and planetary scientist.
A former chair of the National Science Board.
The first woman to lead a science department at MIT, and the first woman to lead a NASA robotic planetary mission.
Growing up in coal country — in a small town in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles south of Scranton — she dreamed of exploring outer space.
Reading every book she could find and listening to her mom’s stories about watching the earliest rocket launches on television.
Maria became the first person in her family to go to college — and never let go of her dream.
Today, she oversees the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT and leads the institution’s Climate Action Plan.
She has played a leadership role in ten NASA missions.
Her groundbreaking work in planetary mapping has generated some of the most accurate topographic maps humanity has ever produced of the Moon and of Mars.
Not only is she an explorer of outer space, she is one of our most accomplished explorers in generations.
I am honored that she has agreed to answer this call to service and to help us chart new courses of discovery.
Finally, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Francis Collins, who could not be here today, will stay on as Director of the National Institutes of Health at this critical moment.
I’ve known Dr. Collins for many years and worked with him closely. He is brilliant, a pioneer, and a true leader.
Above all, he is a model public servant and I am honored and thankful to be working with him again.
To each of you and your families, thank you for your willingness to serve in the administration.
And to the American people, this is the team that will help restore your faith in America’s place on the frontier of science and discovery and hope.
With a promise to “manage the hell out of this thing,” President-Elect Joe Biden laid out a cogent, detailed, realistic plan to “efficiently and equitably vaccinate” the population, with a pledge to administer 100 million doses in his first 100 days.
Biden plans to use a “whole of government,” “whole of society” approach, enlisting FEMA, the Defense Production Act, the National Guard, to set up federally manned and funded sites including mobile clinics to complement local communities, and increase supply of vaccines and vaccinators.
“Our plan is as clear as it is bold:
“Get more people vaccinated for free.
“Create more places for them to get vaccinated.
“Mobilize more medical teams to get shots into peoples’ arms.
“Increase supply and get it out the door as soon as possible.
“This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country.
“You have my word that we will manage the hell out of this operation.”
“For God’s sake, wear a mask for yourself, for your loved ones, for your country,” he declared in remarks from Wilmington on January 15. “These are life and death matters. We need you to stick with the hand washing, social distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings with people outside your household.
“We’ll be a partner to the states and cities, so where things are working, we’ll help do more of the good work, and where things can improve, we’ll bring more resources to bear to get folks tested and vaccinated.
“We will work closely with nonprofits and the private sector who we know all want to partner with us in this effort.
“The more people we vaccinate and the faster we do it, the sooner we can put this pandemic behind us.
“And the sooner we can build our economy back better, and get back to our lives and loved ones.
“As we’ve seen during this pandemic, we can’t solve our problems as a divided nation.
“The only way we come through this is together as fellow Americans and as the United States of America.
“Vice-President-elect Harris and I ran on that vision. And starting noon on Wednesday, that is exactly how we are going to govern and ask for your help.”
Here’s Biden’s plan:
The COVID-19 pandemic is getting worse by the day — more people are hospitalized with COVID-19 than ever before, the death rate is up almost 20 percent, and we’re nearing 400,000 deaths total. At the same time, there is a new, more contagious strain spreading across the country and we are woefully behind on vaccinating the U.S. population.
President-elect Biden will confront this historic challenge with the full strength of the federal government — working closely with local communities already in the trenches. He will lead an unprecedented, whole-of-society effort that mobilizes every resource available — across the public and private sectors. It will take every American doing their part.
As we move forward to get vaccines in arms as quickly as possible, we will not leave anyone behind. Communities across the country are counting on it. The health and economic security of our nation depend on it.
Today, the president-elect outlined key highlights of his plan to efficiently and equitably vaccinate the U.S. population. This includes taking action to:
Get more people vaccinated
Encourage states to allow more people to be vaccinated including individuals 65 and older as well as frontline workers. The process of establishing priority groups was driven by science, but the implementation has been too rigid and confusing. We now see doses of vaccines sitting in freezers unused while people who want the vaccine cannot get it. President-elect Biden’s plan encourages states to open up eligibility beyond healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents and staff, to include frontline essential workers like teachers, first responders, grocery store employees, and anyone who is 65 and older. It won’t mean that everyone in these groups will get vaccinated immediately, as supply is not where it needs to be. But it will mean that as vaccines become available, they will reach more people who need them. For states with the capacity and supply to further expand, we encourage that as well. The federal government will continue to look to the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) framework for an equitable, effective vaccination program.
Ensure equity throughout the vaccination process to reach those in hard-to-reach, marginalized communities. We will ensure that there is equity in the vaccination process by using data to target resources to hard-hit communities, ensuring no out-of-pocket costs for vaccinations, and equitable access to vaccines in marginalized and medically-underserved communities. Partnerships with state, local and community-based organizations and trusted health care providers, like community health centers, will be central to this effort.
Create more vaccination sites
Stand up new, federally-supported community vaccination centers across the country. Getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible will require close coordination between the federal government and all states and territories. Knowing that not all states and jurisdictions have the resources to scale vaccinations at the pace this crisis demands, the Biden-Harris administration will leverage federal resources and emergency contracting authorities to launch new vaccination sites and to expand state and local efforts across the country. With the support of Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), these sites will mobilize thousands of clinical and non-clinical staff and contractors who will work hand-in-glove with the National Guard and state and local teams. The program will be scaled based on what is working best on the ground for state and local partners, and the communities they serve.
Fully reimburse state deployment of the National Guard to support vaccinations and provide additional FEMA assistance. Many states are planning to use their National Guard to support vaccine distribution efforts, including to support critical transportation and logistics functions. To further support states, President-elect Biden’s plan fully reimburses states for the use of the National Guard and provides 100% cost match for state and local emergency costs through FEMA.
Launch mobile vaccination clinics and provider partnerships to reach underserved urban areas and rural communities. President-elect Biden will deploy mobile vaccination clinics in the most hard-to-reach communities and to support those who face challenges accessing vaccination sites, including individuals who live in underserved urban and rural areas. The federal government will partner with states and local providers, including primary care providers, to ensure that they have the resources needed to help get vaccines to the communities they serve. The federal government will launch targeted programs to engage community health centers, rural health clinics, critical access hospitals, and tribal health services to ensure that we can meet the needs of all communities.
Make vaccines available in pharmacies. Millions of Americans turn to their local pharmacies every day for their medicines, flu shots, and much more. Nearly 90 percent of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy. President-elect Biden will quickly jumpstart efforts to increase capacity at chain and independent pharmacies across the country to get Americans vaccinated.
Launch a new partnership with Federally Qualified Health Centers nationwide. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) serve more than 30 million patients each year — one in 11 people nationwide. Many are people of color and many live in rural communities. FQHC patients are often individuals struggling to make ends meet. Given the critical role that these providers play in their communities, President-elect Biden will launch a new program to ensure that FQHCs can directly access vaccine supply where needed. At the same time, the administration will encourage jurisdictions to engage and work closely with health centers in their community vaccination planning. And to ensure that health centers have the resources they need to successfully launch vaccination programs, President-elect Biden has called on Congress to provide additional funds to support community health centers, and HHS will launch a new program to provide guidance, technical assistance, and other resources to prepare and engage these providers nationwide.
Launch new models to serve high-risk individuals. The administration will make programs available for high-risk congregate settings, including homeless shelters, jails, and institutions that serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Increase supply and get it out the door as quickly as possible
Ensure a robust vaccine supply and spur manufacturing. To help people get vaccinated more quickly, the president-elect will maximize the manufacture of vaccine and vaccine supplies for the country, including using the Defense Production Act. This effort will prioritize supplies that could cause bottlenecks, including glass vials, stoppers, syringes, needles, and the “fill and finish” capacity to package vaccine into vials.
Be a reliable partner for states by providing actionable data on vaccine allocation timelines and delivery. To effectively plan and scale distribution, states and localities rely on both advanced understanding of their allocations and timely delivery of their ordered doses. Under President-elect Biden’s plan, the federal government will provide regular projections of the allocations states and localities will receive. The federal government will build on the operational plans in place to ensure the effective distribution, storage, and transit of vaccines to states, including support for maintaining or augmenting the vaccine-specific required cold chain. The federal government will also fully leverage the Defense Production Act to fill any distribution gaps, including with respect to any needed refrigeration, transportation, or storage facilities.
Increase vaccine availability while maintaining a commitment to the two-dose schedule. President-elect Biden’s plan will release the vast majority of the vaccines when they are available, so more people can get vaccinated quickly, while still retaining a small reserve for any unforeseen shortages or delays. To continue ensuring second-dose availability on the timeline recommended by the FDA, the Biden-Harris administration will closely monitor development, production and release of vaccines, and use the DPA as needed to ensure adequate supply for second doses on the timeline recommended by the FDA.
Mobilize more personnel to get shots in arms.
Surge the public health workforce to support the vaccination effort. A diverse, community-based public health workforce is essential to an effective vaccination program. President-elect Biden will address workforce needs by taking steps to allow additional qualified professionals to administer vaccines and strongly encourage states to use their flexibility fully to surge their workforce, including by expanding scope of practice laws and waiving licensing requirements as appropriate. The federal government, in partnership with states, will provide appropriate training, including thorough use of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. The president-elect will also act swiftly to amend the current COVID-19 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act declaration to permit certain qualified professionals, including retired medical professionals, that are not licensed under state law to administer vaccines to be able to do so with appropriate training in order to expand the number of qualified professionals able to administer the vaccine.
Mobilize a public health jobs program to support COVID-19 response. President-elect Biden has asked Congress to make an historic investment in expanding the public health workforce, funding 100,000 public health workers to nearly triple the country’s community health roles. These individuals will be hired to work in their local communities to perform vital tasks like vaccine outreach and contact tracing in the near term, and to transition into community health roles to build our long-term public health capacity that will help improve quality of care and reduce hospitalization for low-income and underserved communities.
Ensure the American people have the information and confidence they need to get vaccinated
Launch a federally led, locally focused public education campaign. The federal government will build public trust through increased transparency, communication around progress and setbacks, and a public education campaign that addresses vaccine hesitancy and is tailored to meet the needs of local communities. The campaign will work to elevate trusted local voices and outline the historic efforts to deliver a safe and effective vaccine as part of a national strategy for beating COVID-19.
President-Elect Joe Biden described the first part of his two-pronged plan of Rescue and Recovery from the surging coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation. In the first of two speeches, he detailed his Rescue Plan to speed up distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations and economic relief to families, states and localities.
Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks, delivered from Wilmington, Delaware, on January 14: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Good evening, my fellow Americans.
It’s been three hundred and forty-three days since the virus that has ravaged our nation tragically claimed its first life.
On February 6, 2020, Patricia Dowd took her last breath at home, under the California sun of Santa Clara. She was 57 years old. A beloved wife, mother, daughter, and sister. She never knew she had the virus, at a time when most folks never even heard about the virus. But just like that, she was gone.
Almost exactly one year later, nearly 400,000 of our fellow Americans have met the same cruel fate. Countless families and friends left behind, with unrelenting grief and guilt, anger and frustration. And the emptiness felt by the loss of life is compounded by the loss of our way of life.
During this pandemic, millions of Americans — through no fault of their own — have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck.
Millions of Americans who never thought they’d be out of work are facing eviction or waiting hours in their car to feed their families as they drive up to a food bank.
Millions who have kept their job but have seen their hours and paycheck reduced are barely hanging on as well.
That is happening today in the United States of America.
Just as we are in the midst of a dark winter of this pandemic as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths spike at record levels, there is real pain overwhelming the real economy. The one where people rely on their paycheck — not their investments — to pay their bills, their meals, and their children’s needs.
You won’t see this pain if your score card is how things are going on Wall Street. But you will see it very clearly if you examine what the twin crises of the pandemic and the sinking economy have laid bare.
The growing divide between those few people at the very top who are doing quite well in this economy — and the rest of America.
Just since this pandemic began, the wealth of the top 1% has grown by roughly $1.5 trillion since the end of last year — four times the amount for the entire bottom 50%.
Some 18 million Americans are still relying on unemployment insurance.
Some 400,000 small businesses have permanently closed their doors.
It’s not hard to see that we are in the middle of a once-in-several generation economic crisis within a once-in-several generation public health crisis.
A crisis of deep human suffering in plain sight.
And there is no time to wait.
We have to act and act now.
This is what the economists are telling us.
More importantly, it is what the values we hold in our hearts as Americans are telling us.
A growing chorus of top economists agree that, in this moment of crisis, with interest rates at historic lows, we cannot afford inaction.
It’s not just that smart fiscal investments, including deficit spending, are more urgent than ever. It’s that the return on these investments — in jobs, in racial equity — will prevent long-term economic damage and the benefits will far surpass the costs.
A growing number of top economists has shown even our debt situation will be more stable — not less stable — if we seize this moment with vision and purpose.
And so, tonight, I’d like to talk to you about our way forward. A two-step plan of rescue and recovery. A two-step plan to build a bridge to the other side of the crises we face and to a better, stronger, more secure America.
Tonight, I’ll lay out the first step — the American Rescue Plan — that will tackle the pandemic and get direct financial assistance and relief to Americans who need it the most.
Next month, in my first appearance before a Joint Session of Congress, I will lay out the second step, my Build Back Better Recovery Plan. It will make historic investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy. Investments in the caregiving economy and in skills and training needed by our workers to compete and win the global economy of the future.
Moody’s — an independent Wall Street firm — said this approach would create more than 18 million jobs.
Our rescue and recovery plan is the path forward with a seriousness of purpose, a clear plan with transparency and accountability with a call for unity that is equally necessary.
Unity is not a pie-in-the-sky dream, it is a practical step to getting things done.
As I said when it passed in December, the bipartisan COVID-19 relief package was an important first step. I am grateful for the Democratic, Republican, and Independent members of Congress who came together to get it done.
But as I said at the time, it’s just a down-payment. We need more action, more bipartisanship, and we need to move fast.
Our rescue plan starts aggressively in order to speed up our national COVID-19 response.
The vaccines offer so much hope. We are grateful to the scientists and researchers, and everyone who participated in the clinical trials. We are also grateful for the rigorous review and testing that’s led to millions of people around the world already being vaccinated safely.
But, the vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far.
Tomorrow, I will lay out our vaccination plan to correct course and meet our goal of 100 million shots by the end of our first 100 days.
This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts we have ever undertaken as a nation.
We will move Heaven and Earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in peoples’ arms, and to increase vaccine supply and get it out the door as fast as possible.
We will also do everything we can to keep our educators and students safe and to safely open a majority of our K-8 schools by the end of our first 100 days.
We can do it, if we give school districts, communities, and states the clear guidance they need as well as the resources they will need that they can not afford right now because of the economic crisis we are in. That means more testing and transportation, additional cleaning and sanitizing services, protective equipment, and ventilation systems in the schools.
And we need to make sure that workers who have COVID-19 symptoms and are quarantined, and those who need to take care of family members with COVID-19 symptoms should be able to stay home from work and still get paid.
This will reduce spread of the virus and make sure workers get the support they need.
But they need about $400 billion in funding from Congress to make all of this happen.
It’s a lot, but I’m convinced we are ready to get this done.
The very health of our nation is at stake.
Our rescue plan also includes immediate relief for Americans hardest hit and most in need.
We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in direct relief to people who need it the most.
$600 is simply not enough if you still have to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table.
Even for those who have kept their jobs these checks are really important.
You see, if you are an American worker making $40,000 a year with less than $400 in savings, maybe you’ve lost hours, or maybe you’re doing fewer shifts driving a truck, or caring for kids, or the elderly.
You’re out there putting your life on the line to work during this pandemic and worried every week that you’ll get sick, lose your job, or worse.
$2,000 is going to go a long way to ease that pain.
We will also provide more peace of mind for struggling families by extending unemployment insurance benefits for millions of workers.
That means that the 18 million Americans currently relying on unemployment benefits while they look for work can count on these checks continuing to be there. Plus, there will be a $400 per week supplement to help make ends meet.
This gets money quickly into the pockets of millions of Americans who will spend it immediately on food, rent, and other basic needs. That helps our whole economy grow.
We will also tackle the growing hunger crisis in America.
As I speak, and as Vice President-elect Harris has spoken about this many times, 1 in 7 households in America — more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino households in America – report that they do not have enough food to eat.
This includes 30 million adults and as many as 12 million children.
It’s wrong. It’s tragic. It’s unacceptable.
We will extend emergency nutrition assistance for 43 million children and families enrolled in the SNAP program through the rest of this year.
And we will help hard-hit restaurants prepare meals for the hungry and provide food for families who need it.
We will also invest $3 billion in making sure mothers and their young children have the nutrition they need.
This would not only meet our moral obligation we have to one another, but it would also spur our economy and get restaurant workers back on the job.
As we work to keep people from going hungry, we will also work to keep a roof over their heads to stem the growing housing crisis in America.
Approximately 14 million Americans have fallen behind on rent, many at risk of eviction.
If we don’t act now there will be a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months as the pandemic rages on. This would overwhelm emergency shelters and increase COVID-19 infections as people have nowhere to go and can’t socially distance.
Next week we will take action to extend nationwide restrictions on evictions and foreclosures. This would provide more than 25 million Americans greater stability instead of living on the edge every single month.
And, I am asking Congress to do its part by funding rental assistance for 14 million hard-hit families and tenants. It will also be a bridge to economic recovery for countless mom and pop landlords.
These crises are straining the budgets of states, cities, and tribal communities that are forced to consider layoffs and service reductions. It means the people putting their lives at risk are the very people now at risk of losing their jobs.
Police officers. Firefighters. All first responders. Nurses. Educators. Over the last year, more than 600,000 education jobs have been lost in our cities and towns.
Our rescue plan will provide emergency funding to keep these essential workers on the job and maintain essential services. It will ensure that vaccines are administered and schools can re-open.
Vice President-elect Harris and I have been speaking with county officials, mayors, and governors of both parties on a regular basis. We are ready to work with them to help get the relief they need.
Our rescue plan will also help small businesses that are the engines of our economic growth and economy as a whole. They are the glue that holds communities together.
But they are hurting badly, and they account for nearly half of the entire U.S. workforce.
Our rescue plan will provide flexible grants to help the hardest hit small businesses survive the pandemic. And low-cost capital to help entrepreneurs of all backgrounds create and maintain jobs, plus provide the essential goods and services that communities depend on.
Last week, I laid out how we will make sure our emergency small business relief is distributed swiftly and equitably.
It will focus on small businesses on Main Street. It will focus on minority-owned small businesses and women-owned small businesses finally having equal access to the resources they need to reopen and rebuild. And, we will be responsible with taxpayer dollars ensuring accountability that reduces waste, fraud, or abuse like we did with the Recovery Act during the Obama-Biden Administration.
Direct cash payments. Extended unemployment insurance. Rent relief. Food assistance. Keeping essential frontline workers on the job. Aid to small businesses.
These are key elements of the American Rescue Plan that would lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half.
That’s 5 million children lifted out of poverty.
Our plan would reduce poverty in the Black community by one-third. It would reduce poverty in the Hispanic community by almost forty percent.
And it includes much more, like an increase of the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. No one working 40 hours a week should still be below the poverty line.
It includes access to affordable child care that will enable parents, particularly women, to get back to work.
I look forward to working with members of Congress from both parties to move quickly to get the American Rescue Plan to the American people.
And then we can move with equal urgency and bipartisanship to my Build Back Better Recovery Plan that I will call for next month to generate even more economic growth.
American manufacturing was the arsenal of democracy in World War II. It will be so again. Imagine the future Made in America in all of America and all by Americans. We will use taxpayer dollars to rebuild America. We will buy American products and support millions of American manufacturing jobs and enhance our competitive strength in an increasingly competitive world.
Imagine historic investments in Research & Development to sharpen America’s innovative edge in markets where global leadership is up for grabs, markets like battery technology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and clean energy.
Imagine confronting the climate crisis with American jobs and ingenuity leading the world.
It’s time to stop talking about infrastructure and finally start building it. Millions of good-paying jobs that put Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and ports to make them more climate resilient, to make it faster, cheaper, and cleaner to transport American-made goods across our country and around the world.
And, imagine millions of jobs in our caregiving economy to ease the financial burden of caring for young children and aging loved ones. Let’s make sure our caregivers, mostly women, women of color, and immigrants, have the pay and dignity they deserve.
We can do these bold, practical things now.
I know what I just described will not come cheaply. But failing to do so will cost us dearly. But the consensus among leading economists is we simply cannot afford not to do it.
Independent, respected institutions from around the world from the Federal Reserve to the International Monetary Fund have underscored the urgency. Even Wall Street firms have reinforced the logic.
If we invest now, boldly, smartly, and with an unwavering focus on American workers and families we will strengthen our economy, reduce inequity, and put our nation’s long term finances on a more sustainable course.
And where we are making permanent investments as I said on the campaign, we will pay for them by making sure that everyone pays their fair share in taxes.
We can do it without punishing anyone by closing tax loopholes for companies that ship American jobs overseas or that allow American companies to pay zero in federal income taxes.
Asking everyone to pay their fair share so we can make permanent investments to rescue and rebuild America is the right thing for our economy, it’s the fair thing and decent thing to do.
But we not only have an economic imperative to act now, we have a moral obligation.
In this pandemic, in America, we cannot let people go hungry.
We cannot let people get evicted.
We cannot watch nurses and educators and others lose their jobs.
We must act now and decisively.
My fellow Americans, the decisions we make in the next few weeks and months will determine whether we thrive in a way that benefits all Americans, or whether we stay stuck in a place where those at the top do great while economic growth for most everyone else is just a spectator sport — where America’s prospects dim, not brighten.
They will determine whether we reassert American leadership and out-compete our competitors in the global economy or whether we watch them catch up and pass us by.
Together I know we will choose a path that includes all Americans so we own the 21st Century.
But even with all of these bold steps,it will take time to get where we need to be. There will be stumbles. But I will always be honest with you about both the progress we’re making and the setbacks meet.
Here’s the deal — the more people we vaccinate, and the faster we do it, the sooner we can save lives put this pandemic behind us and get back to our lives and loved ones.
The sooner we can rescue and rebuild our economy.
I know it’s been nearly a year that’s tested us beyond measure.
For all of you who have lost someone my heart goes out to you. I know what it’s like to stare at the empty chair. For those who have fallen on hard times, I know you can never get back what you lost.
But as your president, I know that every day matters, and every person matters.
From the very first to the nearly 400,000 lost American souls and counting, and to the millions of you just looking for a fighting chance in this economy: I will not forget what you’re going through. We understand what you’re going through.
We will not give up.
We will come back together.
While we didn’t get into all of this overnight, we won’t get out of it overnight, and we can’t do it as a divided nation. The only way we come through this is together as fellow Americans and as the United States of America.
And when we do, there is nothing beyond our capacity.
Out of all the peril of this moment I want you to know, I see all the promise as well.
I remain as optimistic about America as I have ever been.
Just a day after the unprecedented attempted insurrection at the Capitol and four years of tearing down the Rule of Law in Donald Trump’s quest to emulate the dictators he so admires, President-Elect Joe Biden’s introduction of his “Justice League” – the Attorney General, Deputy and Assistants – brought a welcome, calming reassurance. As with his other teams – health and human services, national security, climate and environment – Biden’s Justice nominees “have the experience, judgment, and moral compass that these roles demand, as well as an abiding commitment to supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States,” Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris said.
Biden set aside discussing the calls to remove Trump using the 25th Amendment or impeaching him for a second time before the term ends at 12:01 pm on January 20, but used yesterday’s “unprecedented assault on our democracy,” the mob attack on the Capitol while both chambers of Congress were in the process of certifying Biden-Harris election incited by Trump, to reaffirm his commitment to restoring an independent judiciary, the rule of law, and equal justice for all – all of which were subverted by a dictator wannabe demanding loyalty.
Indeed, it was the reason Biden sought the presidency, after seeing the White Supremacists march in Charlottesville. He evoked that image – as well as the differences in how Black Lives Matter protesters were treated compared to the mob that invaded the Capitol Building, rampaging and ransacking it. “Not only did we see a failure to protect one of the three branches of our government, we also saw a clear failure to carry out equal justice.”
Biden declared, “I made it clear from the moment I entered this race what I believed was at stake nothing less than who we are as a nation, what we stand for, and what we believe, what we will be. And at the center of that belief is one of the oldest principles this nation has long held — we are a government of laws — not people….
“The judiciary doesn’t serve the will of the president, or exist to protect him or her….Our president is not above the law. Justice serves the people — it doesn’t protect the powerful. And it is blind….
“I want it to be clear to those who lead the department and those who serve there. You don’t work for me. Your loyalty isn’t to me. It is to the law. To the Constitution. To the people of this nation. To guarantee justice.”
Here are Biden’s remarks, highlighted, and highlights from the nominees: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Yesterday was one of the darkest days in the history of our nation.
An unprecedented assault on our democracy.
An assault on the citadel of liberty, the United States Capitol itself.
An assault on the rule of law.
An assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: ratifying the will of the people
in choosing the leadership of their government.
We grieve the loss of life. We grieve the desecration of the people’s house.
But what we witnessed yesterday was not dissent. It was disorder.
It was not protest. It was chaos.
They weren’t protestors. Don’t dare call them protestors.
They were rioters, a mob.
It’s that basic and that simple.
And I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming.
But that isn’t true. We could.
For the past four years we’ve had a president who has made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, and the rule of law clear in everything he has done.
He has unleashed an all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy.
And yesterday was but the culmination of that unrelenting attack.
He has attacked the free press who dared to question his power, repeatedly calling the free press the enemy of the people.
Language that has long been used by autocrats and dictators all over the world to hold on to power.
Language that is being used now by autocrats and dictators across the world, only this time with the imprimatur of the outgoing President of the United States.
He has attacked our intelligence services who dared to tell the American people the truth about the efforts of a foreign power to elect him four years ago, choosing instead to believe the word of Vladimir Putin over the word of those who had sworn their allegiance to this nation — many of whom had risked their lives in service in this nation.
He deployed the United States military, tear-gassing peaceful protestors in the pursuit of a photo opportunity in service of his reelection. Even holding the Bible upside down.
An action that led to an apology from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the outspoken denunciation of the use of the military for domestic political purposes from scores of former military leaders and Secretaries of Defense.
He thought he could stack the courts with friendly judges who would support him no matter what.
He went so far as to say he needed nine justices on the Supreme Court because he thought the election would end up in the Supreme Court and they would hand him the election.
And he was stunned, truly stunned, when the judges he appointed didn’t do his bidding, but instead acted with integrity, followed the Constitution, and upheld the rule of law.
Not just once or twice, or three times — but over 60 times.
In more than 60 cases, in state after state after state, and then at the Supreme Court judges, including people he considered quote “his” judges, “Trump judges” — the courts looked at the allegations Trump was making and determined they were without merit.
Nothing was judged to put the election in question or doubt.
You want to understand the importance of democratic institutions in this country?
Take a look at the judiciary in this nation.
Take a look at the pressure it was just subjected to by the sitting president of the United States.
At every level, it rose to the moment during this election.
Did its job.
Acted with complete fairness and impartiality.
With complete honor and integrity.
When history looks back at the moment we just passed through, it will say our democracy survived in no small part because of the men and women who represent the independent judiciary in this nation.
We owe them a deep, deep debt of gratitude.
And then there is his attack on the Department of Justice.
Treating the Attorney General as his personal lawyer and the department as his personal law firm.
Through it all, we would hear the same thing from this president — my generals, my judges, my Attorney General.
And then yesterday.
The culmination of the attack on our institutions of democracy.
This time the Congress itself.
Inciting a mob to attack the Capitol, to threaten the elected Representatives of the people of this nation and even the Vice President, to stop the United States Congress from ratifying the will of the people in a just-completed free and fair election.
Trying to use a mob to silence the voices of nearly 160 million Americans who summoned the courage in the face of a pandemic that threatened their health and their lives to cast their sacred ballot.
I made it clear from the moment I entered this race what I believed was at stake nothing less than who we are as a nation, what we stand for, and what we believe, what we will be.
And at the center of that belief is one of the oldest principles this nation has long held — we are a government of laws — not people.
I said it many times in the campaign.
Our democratic institutions are not relics of another age.
They are what set this nation apart.
They are the guardrails of our democracy.
They are why no president is a king.
No Congress is the House of Lords.
The judiciary doesn’t serve the will of the president, or exist to protect him or her.
We have three co-equal branches of government.
Our president is not above the law.
Justice serves the people — it doesn’t protect the powerful.
And it is blind.
What we saw yesterday in plain view was another violation of a fundamental tenet of this nation.
Not only did we see a failure to protect one of the three branches of our government, we also saw a clear failure to carry out equal justice.
No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protestors yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol.
We all know that’s true. And that is totally unacceptable. And the American people saw it in plain view and I hope it sensitized them to what we have to do.
Not many people know it, but the reason the Department of Justice was formed in 1870 was to enforce the Civil Rights Amendments that grew out of the Civil War — the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.
To stand up to the Klan.
To take on domestic terrorism.
This original spirit must once again guide and animate its work.
So as we stand here today, we do so in the wake of yesterday’s events.
Events that could not more vividly demonstrate some of the most important work we have to do in this nation.
Committing ourselves to the rule of law in this nation.
Invigorating our democratic institutions.
Carrying out equal justice under the law in America.
There is no more important place for us to do this work than at the Department of Justice.
And there are no more important people to carry out this work than the people I am announcing today.
More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, and the independence of the Department of Justice in this nation.
I want it to be clear to those who lead the department and those who serve there.
You don’t work for me. Your loyalty isn’t to me.
It is to the law.
To the Constitution. To the people of this nation. To guarantee justice.
For Attorney General of the United States, I nominate Judge Merrick Garland.
One of the most respected jurists of our time.
Brilliant yet humble.
Distinguished yet modest.
Full of character and decency.
Supreme Court clerk.
Served in the Justice Department during the Carter, Bush 41, and Clinton Administrations,
where he embraced the Department’s core values of independence and integrity.
As federal prosecutor he took on terrorism and corruption and violent crime always with utmost professionalism and duty to the oath he swore.
Nominated by President Clinton to be a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the second most powerful court in America.
Throughout such a long and distinguished career, he has earned the praise and admiration of members of the bar and bench, and politicians of both parties.
And despite his busy schedule and prestigious position, he still makes time to volunteer
regularly tutoring students in Northeast D.C. as he has for more than 20 years.
This is about character.
It is no surprise why President Obama nominated Judge Garland to the Supreme Court.
He embodies honor, decency, integrity — fidelity to the rule of law and judicial independence.
It’s those same traits he will now bring as the Attorney General of the United States, not as the personal attorney to the President.
He will restore trust in the rule of law and equal justice under law.
I fully expect that he will receive a fair hearing and swift confirmation.
And once he is confirmed, I will move promptly to nominate his replacement on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and I expect that the distinguished nominee will receive a prompt and fair hearing as well.
“As everyone who watched yesterday’s events in Washington now understands — if they did not before — the Rule of Law is not just some lawyer’s turn-of-phrase. It is the very foundation of our democracy,” Garland said.
“The essence of the Rule of Law is that like cases are treated alike: That there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends and another for foes; one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless; one rule for the rich and another for the poor — or different rules depending on one’s race or ethnicity.
“And the essence of its great corollary, Equal Justice Under Law, is that all citizens are protected in the exercise of their civil rights. …
“These principles — ensuring the Rule of Law and making real the promise of Equal Justice Under Law — are the great principles upon which the Department of Justice was founded and for which it must always stand.
“They echo today in the priorities that lie before us — from ensuring racial equity in our justice system to meeting the evolving threat of violent extremism.
“If confirmed, those are the principles to which I will be devoted as Attorney General.”
For Deputy Attorney General I nominate Lisa Monaco.
A fifteen-year veteran of the Department of Justice, Lisa knows the department inside and out.
She is a definition of what a public servant should be — decent, trusted, and honorable.
A top-flight prosecutor who took on public corruption, corporate fraud, and violent crime.
Chief of Staff to the Director of the FBI.
The first woman ever to be confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for National Security,
where she elevated cybersecurity to a top priority — which is even more consequential today.
And at the White House, she was the top homeland security and counterterrorism advisor to President Obama and me.
She coordinated our fight against Al-Qaeda and ISIL. She helped lead our response to the Ebola crisis.
And when the bombs went off at the finish line on Patriot’s Day in Boston, her hometown , she coordinated the federal government’s response with local and state law enforcement to get to the bottom of this horrible tragedy.
I know she will help restore the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice that she reveres.
“The soul of the Justice Department lives in the integrity of its career professionals, in the independence of its investigations and prosecutions, and in the principles it brings to bear as it stewards the ideal of justice in America,” Monaco said.
“Today, we are at another inflection point. Some of the challenges we face are familiar — racial inequality; the need for criminal justice reform; domestic terrorism and threats to public safety.
“Some of the tasks are enduring — like the importance of working closely with law enforcement to ensure public safety and build trust in our communities.
“Some of the challenges are evolving — like mounting cyber threats.
“I’m confident that the Department of Justice is up to all these challenges, but what is most critical in the days ahead is not a challenge at all — but an opportunity.
“A chance for this team and the career professionals who make up the Justice Department to reaffirm its norms and traditions, to do justice without fear or favor, to keep the American people safe and to do so always consistent with the rule of law.”
For Associate Attorney General, the number 3 job at the Department — I nominate Vanita Gupta.
One of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America.
Started her career at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Then on to the ACLU.
And then to the Justice Department during the Obama-Biden Administration where she led the Civil Rights Division.
At every step, with every case, she has fought for greater equity and to right the wrongs in our justice system where they existed.
And she has done so by bringing people together, earning praise from across the ideological spectrum for her approach to solving some of the thorniest problems we face.
During the Obama-Biden Administration, Vanita was put in charge of investigating abuse of power in police departments in Ferguson, Missouri, and other communities torn apart by acts of violence and racial injustice.
She helped institute common-sense police reforms to build greater equity, safety, and trust.
She was commended for her work both by law enforcement and by those advocating for changes in the criminal justice system.
That is a rare achievement — and it speaks volumes about her capacity to unite people in common purpose, which this is all about.
Born in Philadelphia and a proud daughter of immigrants from India, if confirmed, Vanita will be the first woman of color to serve as Associate Attorney General.
I am grateful that Vanita is leaving her current job leading one of the premier civil rights organizations in the world to answer the call to serve once again and ensure our justice system is even more fair and equitable.
There are many agencies in our federal government — but only one which bears the name of a value,” Gupta said.
By virtue of that name — that value of justice — we know the Department carries a unique charge and North Star.
At its best, it is the keeper of a sacred promise — the promise of equal justice for all.
That no one is above the law.
When this promise is pursued with vigor, it brings light to our nation and serves as a beacon to the world.
But when abandoned, we degrade our democracy and sow the division we’ve come to know all too well…
This moment demands bold leadership
The Department of Justice, as it has done throughout history, will have to uncover and reckon with hard truths; hold people, companies, and institutions accountable to our Constitution and laws;
drive change where there is injustice; and heal a nation starving for decency and hope.
Now is the time to ensure our economic system works for everyone, to protect the health and safety of the American people, and to harness all DOJ levers for civil rights, justice reform, and climate justice.
For Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, I nominate Kristen Clarke, who has also spent her career advocating for greater equity in the justice system.
A daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Kristen is also one of the most distinguished civil rights attorneys in America.
A proud native of Brooklyn, New York she began her legal career in the very same office she is now nominated to lead.
Her previous tenure with the Justice Department saw her take on some of the most complex civil rights cases — from voting rights and redistricting challenges to prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking.
She has earned accolades throughout her career — including as the head of the Civil Rights Bureau for her home state of New York, where she led the charge to end the school-to-prison pipeline and root out discrimination in housing and law enforcement.
She currently leads one of the nation’s top civil rights organizations, where she promotes greater equity in voting rights, in our education system, our housing system, our justice system, and so much more.
Now, she will return full circle to pursue that vital work where her career began.
The Civil Rights Division represents the moral center of the Department of Justice, and the heart of that fundamental American ideal, that we are created equal and deserve to be treated equally.
I am honored she accepted the call to return to make real that promise for all Americans.
“Not everyone is blessed with the opportunities I enjoyed,” Clarke said. “That awareness has animated my life’s work — it’s what brought me to the Department of Justice where I started my career — and it’s what brings me back for this homecoming today. ..The clarion call of equal justice under law is what binds us together as a nation.”
Biden said, “To each of you, thank you for your service and that of your families.
And to the American people, this is the team that will restore your trust and faith in our institutions of democracy.
One of the reasons I ran for president was when I saw those people coming out of the fields in Charlottesville, shouting hate, a young woman killed, and when asked, the President of the United States said there are good people on both sides.
That’s why I ran. There is no more important or heartfeld effort on my part than restoring the independence and integrity of our Justice Department.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops and those who have sworn to protect the American people.
President-Elect Joe Biden, in remarks that included a rebuke of the Trump Administration’s failure to achieve even a fraction (2 million) of the 20 million vaccinations promised by the end of 2020, outlined five things Americans need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and his administration’s plans to get COVID-19 under control:
1. Things are going to get worse before they get better, with nation on track to hit 400,000 dead by Inauguration Day, but tens of thousands of lives can be saved if people are vigilant.
2. “The Trump administration plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind.”
3. The Biden-Harris administration will spare no effort to provide vaccines, free, and stand up distribution system to deliver 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days, to “make sure the vaccine is distributed equitably, so every person who wants the vaccine can get it no matter the color of their skin or where they live.”
4. Will use the Defense Production Act to accelerate production of the materials needed for the vaccine. And massive public education campaign to show vaccines are safe – and equitable distribution
5. Remain vigilant. Will ask Americans to wear mask for first 100 days of his presidency, as part of his 100-day challenge; get Congress to fund COVID action plan for testing, PPE, vaccination program and so that K-8 schools can open safely
Here is a highlighted transcript of Biden’s remarks on Tuesday, December 29, from Wilmington, Delaware:
Vice President-elect Harris and I just received a briefing on COVID-19 by our team of experts.
As we end one of the most difficult years as a nation, I am optimistic about the future.
The vaccines that have been discovered and developed give us enormous hope.
Our economy is poised to come back, and come alive.
And I can see a return to normalcy in the next year.
I also see the incredible opportunities for our nation in the years ahead in job creation, in clean energy, racial equality, and so much more.
But I need to be honest.
The next few weeks and months are going to be a very tough period of time for our nation — maybe the toughest of the entire pandemic.
I know that’s hard to hear. But it’s the truth.
So, we need to steel our spines for what’s ahead.
We need to follow even more closely the recommendations to slow the spread of the virus.
And each of us needs to do what we can to protect ourselves, our families, and our fellow Americans.
We are going to get through this.
Brighter days are coming.
But it’s going to take all the grit and determination we have as Americans to get it done.
So today, I want to clear about five things every American should know about our efforts to contain COVID-19 and where the vaccine stands today
First — things will get worse before they get better.
In September, we passed the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths.
At the time, I warned that we’d hit 400,000 deaths before the end of the Trump Administration in January.
Critics said I was being too alarmist and negative.
But as I’ve said all along, I will tell it like it is when it comes to COVID.
And the reality is, it looks like we’ll hit that grim milestone.
We just crossed 330,000 deaths.
We’re averaging a daily death rate of nearly 2,200 people — which means we will lose tens of thousands of more lives in the months to come.
Hospitals are being stretched beyond capacity.
And that’s data before we see the impact of cases coming from the holidays.
People getting infected today don’t show up in case counts for weeks, and those who perish from the disease die weeks after exposure.
So we have to anticipate that infections over the holidays will produce soaring case counts in January and a soaring death toll into February.
Turning this around will take time. And we might not see improvement until well into March, as it will take time for our COVID response plan to begin to produce visible progress.
Second, the Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind.
We are grateful to the companies, doctors, scientists, researchers, and clinical trial participants, and Operation Warp Speed for developing the vaccines quickly.
But as I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should.
A few weeks ago the Trump Administration suggested that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of December.
With only a few days left in December, we have only vaccinated a few million so far.
At the pace the vaccination program is moving now, it would take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.
Which brings me to the third thing every American should know: the Biden-Harris Administration will spare no effort to make sure people are getting vaccinated.
I’ve laid out three challenges in our first 100 days.
One of them is ensuring that 100 million shots have been administered by the end of our first 100 days.
If Congress provides the funding, we would be able to meet this incredible goal.
It would take ramping up five to six times the current pace to 1 million shots a day.
But even with that improvement, even if we boost the speed of vaccinations to 1 million shots a day, it will still take months to have the majority of the country vaccinated.
I have directed my team to prepare a much more aggressive effort — with more federal involvement and leadership to get things back on track.
We will find ways to boost the pace of vaccinations.
But as Dr. Fauci and others have stated these past few days, this will all take more time than anyone would like – and more time than the promises from the Trump administration has suggested.
This will be the greatest operational challenge we have ever faced as a nation.
We will get it done.
But it’s going to take a vast new effort that is not yet underway.
And that gets to the fourth thing you should know: I will move Heaven and Earth to get us going in the right direction.
I will use my power under the Defense Production Act to order private industry to accelerate the making of materials needed for the vaccine.
Vice President-elect Harris and I have been speaking with county officials, mayors, and governors of both parties to speed up the distribution of the vaccine across the nation.
We are planning a whole-of-government effort.
We will work to set-up vaccination sites and send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities.
We also know there is vaccine hesitancy in many communities, especially in Black, Latino, and Native American communities who have not always been treated with the dignity and honesty they deserve by the federal government and the scientific community throughout our history.
That’s why we will launch a massive public education campaign to increase vaccine acceptance.
We will do everything we can to show the vaccines are safe and critically important for one’s own health and that of their family and community.
That means we will also make sure the vaccine is distributed equitably, so every person who wants the vaccine can get it no matter the color of their skin or where they live.
And we’re going to ensure vaccinations are free of charge.
Fifth — while the pandemic rages on and as we increase the supply, distribution, and administration of the vaccine, we must remain vigilant.
As part of our 100-day challenge, I’ll be asking the American people to wear a mask for the first 100 days of my administration.
Not as a political statement, but as a patriotic duty.
Our Administration will require masks where we can for federal workers, in federal facilities, and on interstate travel like planes and trains.
And we’ve been working directly with county officials, mayors, and governors to implement mask mandates in their towns, cities, and states.
Masking has been a divisive issue in this country.
But COVID is a killer in red states and blue states alike.
So — I encourage all of you — wear a mask.
Encourage your family and friends to do the same.
It’s one of the easiest things we can do that will make a huge difference to save lives.
Another 100-day challenge is opening most of our K-8 schools by the end of our first 100 days in the spring.
But we can only do that if Congress provides the necessary funding so we can get schools, districts, communities, and states the resources they need for so many things that aren’t in their already tight budgets.
They need funding for testing to help reopen schools.
More funding for transportation so students can maintain social distancing on buses.
They need it for school buildings, for additional cleaning services, protective equipment, and ventilation systems.
This will require an additional tens of billions of dollars to get it done.
And Congress also needs to fund and provide more protective equipment for frontline health care workers who are still reusing masks and gowns.
And we need to scale up testing so anyone who needs one can get one.
After 10 months of the pandemic, we still don’t have enough testing.
That’s a travesty.
All of this — vaccinations, testing, protective gear — will require more funding from Congress, more than was just approved.
That is why I will propose a COVID action package early next year and challenge Congress to act on it quickly.
My ability to change the direction of the pandemic starts in three weeks.
But with thousands dying every day between now and then, let me conclude by discussing what needs to happen now.
I congratulate the bipartisan majority on passing and President Trump on signing the COVID relief bill.
It is a step in the right direction.
It will help people in need.
It will pay for some, but far from all of what we need to fix the COVID response.
It’s a down payment.
But now, with that done — I hope that the President will also clearly and unambiguously promote mask wearing.
I give former Governor Chris Christie credit. He and I disagree on most things.
But I’m thankful he’s now encouraging people to do the right thing and wear a mask for themselves, their loved ones, and their country.
I hope President Trump listens to him.
He can do it, too.
It would make a huge difference.
And I hope that the President will clearly and unambiguously urge all Americans to take the vaccine once it’s available.
I took it to instill public confidence in the vaccine.
Vice President-elect Harris took hers today to do the same.
When his doctors recommend it, President Trump should take it and instill that same degree of confidence.
And let me also say this to the American people: we can save 60,000-100,000 lives in the weeks and months ahead if we step up together.
Wear a mask. Stay socially distanced. Wash our hands. Avoid large indoor gatherings.
I know that these are often not easy asks.
You’re already making tremendous sacrifices every single day.
It’s hard on your lives, on your livelihoods, and on your kids and families.
It’s not small what’s being asked of you.
But we are in it together.
And the actions we take now will help us contain the pandemic and get us back to our lives and loved ones.
So, to the American people, I know there’s a lot that we have to do.
But I want you to know there’s also so much we can do.
We are the United States of America.
We’ve been through hard times before as a nation, and we’ll come through this as well.
President-Elect Joe Biden issued his sternest condemnation yet of the Trump Administration’s “roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget” of his transition team, which will endanger national security as the Biden administration takes over in January. “It’s nothing short of irresponsible.”
In remarks following briefings with his National Security team, Biden laid out the challenges he faces and a blueprint for his administration’s approach:
“Many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage. They’ve been hollowed out. In personnel. In capacity. In morale. In policy processes that have atrophied or been sidelined. In the disrepair of our alliances. In our absence from key institutions that matter to the welfare of the American people. In a general disengagement from the world.
“And all of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people and to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting. Rebuilding the full set of our instruments of foreign policy and national security is a key challenge that Vice President-elect Harris and I will face upon taking office — starting with our diplomacy.”
Issues ranging from climate change to global pandemic to fair trade and economic opportunity, he said, will depend on “the power of smart and effective American leadership” with partners, effectively doing a 180-degree turn from Trump’s “America First” policy.
It also means “modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future, rather than continuing to over-invest in legacy systems designed to address the threats of the past. And we have to be able to innovate and reimagine our defenses against growing threats in new realms like cyberspace.
Biden said he would work immediately to roll back the restrictions at the southern border, but cautioned that new processes and procedures will take time to implement. “We will have to have a process to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including the safety of asylum seekers hoping for a new start in the United States free from violence and persecution…
“We will champion liberty and democracy once more. We will reclaim our credibility to lead the free world. And we will, once again, lead not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Biden declared.
Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks on December 28, from Wilmington, Delaware:
Before I begin, I want to say a few brief words on the explosion that took place Friday in Nashville.
Federal, state, and local law enforcement are working around the clock to gain more information on motive and intent.
This bombing was a reminder of the destructive power that individuals and small groups can muster, and the need for continuing vigilance.
I want to thank the police officers who worked quickly to evacuate the area before the explosion occurred, and all the firefighters and first responders who jumped into action early on Christmas morning.
Their bravery and cool-headedness likely saved lives and prevented a worse outcome — and we are all grateful for that.
And I know the hearts of all Americans are with the people of Nashville as they rebuild and recover from this traumatic event.
Now, Vice President-elect Harris and I, along with our nominees to lead our national security institutions, have just been briefed by some of the professionals who have been conducting agency reviews as part of our transition.
This is a long-standing part of the orderly transition of power in American democracy.
We welcomed teams from the incoming Trump-Pence administration four years ago.
And over the past few weeks, teams of genuine policy and management experts, many with previous government experience, have gone into agencies across the government to conduct interviews with personnel to gather information and to assess the state of the federal government that we will shortly inherit.
These teams worked under incredibly difficult circumstances — taking COVID-19 precautions, and waiting weeks for ascertainment — but they have done an outstanding job.
From some agencies, our teams received exemplary cooperation from the career staff.
From others, most notably the Department of Defense, we encountered obstruction from the political leadership.
And the truth is: many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage.
They’ve been hollowed out.
In personnel. In capacity. In morale.
In policy processes that have atrophied or been sidelined.
In the disrepair of our alliances.
In our absence from key institutions that matter to the welfare of the American people.
In a general disengagement from the world.
And all of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people and to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting.
Rebuilding the full set of our instruments of foreign policy and national security is a key challenge that Vice President-elect Harris and I will face upon taking office — starting with our diplomacy.
Today, we heard from the leaders of the State and USAID agency review teams about the critical early investments we are going to need to make in our diplomacy, in our development efforts, and in rebuilding our alliances to close ranks with our partners and bring to bear the full benefits of our shared strength for the American people.
When we consider the most daunting threats of our time, we know that meeting them requires American engagement and leadership, but also that none of them can be solved by America acting alone.
Take climate change for example.
The United States accounts for less than 15 percent of global carbon emissions.
But without a clear, coordinated, and committed approach from the other 85 percent of carbon emitters, the world will continue to warm, storms will continue to worsen, and climate change will continue to threaten lives and livelihoods, public health, and economies — and our very existence on our planet.
We’ve learned so painfully this year the cost of being unprepared for a pandemic that leaps borders and circles the globe.
If we aren’t investing with our partners around the world in strengthening health systems everywhere, we’re undermining our ability to permanently defeat COVID-19, and we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable to the next deadly epidemic.
And as we compete with China and hold China’s government accountable for its abuses on trade, technology, human rights, and other fronts, our position will be much stronger when we build coalitions of like-minded partners and allies to make common cause with us in defense of our shared interests and values.
We are almost 25 percent of the global economy on our own, but together with our democratic partners, we more than double our economic leverage.
On any issue that matters to the U.S.-China relationship — from pursuing a foreign policy for the middle class, including a trade and economic agenda that protects American workers, our intellectual property, and the environment — to ensuring security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, to championing human rights — we are stronger and more effective when we are flanked by nations that share our vision for the future of our world.
That’s how we multiply the impact of our efforts and make those efforts more sustainable.
That’s the power of smart and effective American leadership.
But right now, there’s an enormous vacuum.
We’re going to have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways to work around us or without us.
We also heard from key leaders on our intelligence and defense review teams, including Stephanie O’Sullivan, former principal deputy director of national intelligence, and retired Army Lieutenant General Karen Gibson.
We talked about the different strategic challenges we will face from both Russia and China, and the reforms we must make to put ourselves in the strongest possible position to meet these challenges.
That includes modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future, rather than continuing to over-invest in legacy systems designed to address the threats of the past.
And we have to be able to innovate and reimagine our defenses against growing threats in new realms like cyberspace.
We are still learning about the extent of the SolarWinds hack and the vulnerabilities that have been exposed.
As I said last week — this attack constitutes a grave risk to our national security.
And we need to close the gap between where our capabilities are now and where they need to be to better deter, detect, disrupt, and respond to these sorts of intrusions in the future.
This is an area where Republicans and Democrats are in agreement — and we should be able to work on a bipartisan basis to better secure the American people against malign cyber actors.
And right now, as our nation is in a period of transition, we need to make sure that nothing is lost in the handoff between administrations.
My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and of our operations to deter our enemies.
We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.
But — as I said at the beginning — we have encountered roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget.
Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas.
It’s nothing short of irresponsible.
Finally, we spoke about the day-one challenges that we will need to address immediately, drawing on the skill sets of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
We were briefed on the steps needed to clean up the humanitarian disaster that the Trump Administration has systematically created on our southern border.
We will institute a humane and orderly response.
That means rebuilding the capacity we need to safely and quickly process asylum seekers without creating a near-term crisis in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
These are hard issues.
And the current administration has made them much harder by working to erode our capacity.
It’s going to take time to rebuild it.
And we’re going to work purposefully and diligently to responsibly roll back Trump’s restrictions starting on day one.
But it’s not as simple as throwing a switch to turn everything back on — especially amid a pandemic.
We will have to have a process to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including the safety of asylum seekers hoping for a new start in the United States free from violence and persecution.
Of course, an essential part of this will be managing the safe, equitable, and efficient distribution of vaccines to as many Americans as possible — as quickly as possible.
FEMA has an enormous part to play in this, and we heard from the former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate today.
We want to make sure that our administration is poised to make full use of FEMA’s domestic reach and capacity in managing our COVID response.
Finally, from every briefer, I was heartened to also hear about the incredible strength we will be inheriting — the career professionals working across these agencies.
They never stop doing their jobs and continue to serve our country day in and day out to keep their fellow Americans safe, just as they have always done.
These agencies are filled with patriots who have earned our respect, and who should never be treated as a political football.
I’m looking forward to the honor of working with them again, to asking for their advice and inputs to help shape the best possible policies for all Americans.
And I want to thank the incredible folks who have served on all the Agency Review Teams as part of this transition.
They’ve dedicated their time, energy, and vital expertise to help ensure Vice President-elect Harris and I are ready to hit the ground running.
As we look forward to the start of a new year, fresh with hope and the possibilities of better days to come, but clear-eyed about the challenges that will not disappear overnight, I want to reiterate my message to the American people:
We’ve overcome incredible challenges as a nation. And we will do so again.
We’ll do it by coming together.
By uniting after a year of pain and loss to heal, to rebuild, and to reclaim America’s place in the world.
This is the work that lies ahead of us, and I know we are up to the task.
We will champion liberty and democracy once more.
We will reclaim our credibility to lead the free world.
And we will, once again, lead not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.