As the stage where he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday was dismantled and the tens of thousands of National Guard troops deployed to the capital stood down, President Biden prepared to spend his first full day in the White House addressing a confluence of crises.
Moving with a speed meant to underscore the urgency of the moment, Mr. Biden signed executive orders to undo signature policy initiatives of the Trump administration while preparing to push ahead with his own sweeping agenda.
But Mr. Biden will need the cooperation of Congress, where Democrats now control both chambers, to push through a $1.9 trillion rescue package.
With the coronavirus having already claimed 400,000 American lives and experts warning that 100,000 more could die in the next month, the pandemic was at the top of the agenda.
Mr. Biden unveiled a 21-page national strategy that promised to harness the broad powers of the federal government in combating the virus.
Even before he spent his first night in the White House, he signed an order requiring masks be worn in federal buildings and he urged all Americans to take this most basic of precautions for 100 days.
He restored a global health unit to the National Security Council and embraced the World Health Organization, announcing that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci would lead the U.S. delegation to its executive board.
But untangling and speeding up the distribution of vaccines — perhaps the most pressing challenge but also the most promising path forward — will be a desperate race against time as states across the country including New York and California have warned that they could run out of doses as early as this weekend.
Inheriting an economy battered by the pandemic, the Biden administration is moving to extend a federal moratorium on evictions and has asked agencies to prolong a moratorium on foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages.
Mr. Biden also moved to undo some of the harshest immigration policies of his predecessor, including ordering officials to work to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected hundreds of thousands of people who came to the country as young children from deportation.
And the United States will once again strive to meet the goals set out in the Paris climate agreement, rejoining the accord and signaling a return to multilateralism in foreign policy.
But the mission Mr. Biden laid out for his administration in his inaugural address went beyond policy. It was more elemental.
He set the goal of uniting a fractured country, restoring faith in the institutions of democracy and ending an “uncivil war” that will require rejecting “the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.”
As Mr. Biden himself noted, it will be a monumental task.
“We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities,” Mr. Biden said. “Much to repair. Much to restore. Much to heal. Much to build, and much to gain.”
President Biden planned to use Thursday, his first full day in office, to go on the offensive against the coronavirus, with a 21-page national strategy that includes aggressive use of executive authority to protect workers, advance racial equity and ramp up the manufacturing of test kits, vaccines and supplies.
The “National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,” previewed Wednesday evening by Mr. Biden’s advisers, outlines the kind of muscular and highly coordinated federal response that Democrats have long demanded and that President Donald J. Trump rejected. Mr. Trump insisted that state governments take the lead.
Mr. Biden intends to make expansive use of his authority to sign a dozen executive orders or actions related to Covid-19 — including one requiring mask-wearing “in airports, on certain modes of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes, maritime vessels, and intercity buses,” according to a fact sheet issued by his administration.
With its nominees for top health positions not yet confirmed by Congress, the Biden team has asked Mr. Trump’s surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, to stay on as an adviser and to help with the transition. But Mr. Biden’s advisers were not shy about taking aim at the former president, whose vaccine rollout has been the object of intense criticism.
“The cooperation or lack of cooperation from the Trump administration has been an impediment,” said Jeff Zients, the new White House Covid-19 response coordinator, adding, “We don’t have the visibility that we would hope to have into supply and allocations.”
The Biden team said it had identified 12 “immediate supply shortfalls” that were critical to the pandemic response, including N95 surgical masks and isolation gowns, as well as swabs, reagents and pipettes used in testing — deficiencies that have dogged the nation for nearly a year. Jen Psaki, the new White House press secretary, told reporters on Wednesday evening that Mr. Biden “absolutely remains committed” to invoking the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law, to bolster supplies.
President Biden’s inauguration could not feature grand galas or star-studded balls across downtown Washington, in a nod to the coronavirus pandemic and the new administration’s effort to model public health behavior it hopes Americans will adopt.
But presidential inaugurations are also cultural touchstones and moments to do something with millions of eyeballs watching on television and online. So the Presidential Inaugural Committee arranged a 90-minute musical celebration to commemorate the day — one that has the added benefit of demonstrating Mr. Biden’s support from a wide array of A-list performers, something former President Donald J. Trump longed for but never received.
“In the last few weeks, in the last few years, we’ve witnessed deep divisions and a troubling rancor in our land,” said Tom Hanks, the host of the program. “But tonight, we ponder the United States of America — the practice of our democracy.”
The special, which began at 8:30 p.m. Eastern and was carried live by the major networks and most cable news stations, had a lineup featuring Katy Perry, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jon Bon Jovi, Ant Clemons, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen and Justin Timberlake, many of whom campaigned for Mr. Biden and, in past campaigns, for former President Barack Obama.
To open the program, Mr. Springsteen greeted Americans and said he was “proud” to be in Washington. Then he began to perform “Land of Hope and Dreams,” which he offered as “a small prayer for our country.”
As has been the custom at big Democratic political events, viewers then toggled between musical performances by celebrities — many of the songs that were selected featured themes about a bright future — and brief remarks from regular Americans. There was an 8-year-old girl from Wisconsin who raised $50,000 from a virtual lemonade stand to feed the hungry; a nurse from New York who was the first American to receive the coronavirus vaccine; and a UPS driver from Virginia who was beloved by his customers for delivering packages during the pandemic.
The program also featured remarks from Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — who was introduced by Sarah Fuller, the first woman to play in a Power 5 football game — as well as a conversation between former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The night concluded with Katy Perry singing her hit song “Firework” as fireworks lit the night sky, illuminating the Washington Monument behind her. Midway through the performance, Mr. Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, emerged to take in the display for themselves.
“In many ways, this moment embodies our character as a nation,” Ms. Harris — the first woman, first Black person and first person of South Asian descent to hold her office — said in her remarks earlier in the evening. “It demonstrates who we are. Even in dark times, we not only dream. We do.”
“This,” she said, “is American aspiration.”
President Biden signed a raft of measures late Wednesday to dismantle some of the Trump administration’s most contentious policies, moving hours after taking office to sweep aside his predecessor’s pandemic response to and reverse his environmental policies and anti-immigration orders.
Here are some of the most notable issues President Biden addressed with the 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations:
Mr. Biden signed an executive order appointing Jeffrey D. Zients as the Covid-19 response coordinator, an effort to “aggressively” gear up the nation’s response to the pandemic. Mr. Biden is requiring social distancing and the wearing of masks on all federal property and by all federal employees, and starting a “100 days masking challenge” urging all Americans to wear masks.
Mr. Biden is also reinstating ties with the World Health Organization after the Trump administration chose to withdraw the nation’s membership and funding last year.
With an executive order, Mr. Biden has bolstered the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation. Mr. Trump sought for years to end the program. The order also calls on Congress to enact legislation providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for those immigrants.
Three other orders revoke the Trump administration’s plan to exclude noncitizens from the census count, overturn a Trump order that pushed aggressive efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants, and block the deportation of Liberians living in the United States.
Mr. Biden has also ended travel restrictions for people from several predominantly Muslim and African countries and halted construction of the border wall with Mexico.
Chief among executive orders that begin to tackle the issue of climate change, Mr. Biden has signed a letter to re-enter the United States in the Paris climate accords, which it will officially rejoin 30 days from now. Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement, under which nearly 200 nations have pledged to cut greenhouse emissions, in 2019.
In additional executive orders, Mr. Biden began the reversal of many environmental policies, including revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline; reversing the rollbacks to vehicle emissions standards; undoing decisions to slash the size of several national monuments; enforcing a temporary moratorium on oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and re-establishing a working group on the social costs of greenhouse gasses.
Racial and L.G.B.T. Equality
Mr. Biden will end the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, which released a report on Monday that historians said distorted the role of slavery in the United States. The president also revoked Mr. Trump’s executive order limiting the ability of federal agencies, contractors and other institutions to hold diversity and inclusion training.
Mr. Biden designated Susan E. Rice, the head of his Domestic Policy Council, as the leader of a “robust, interagency” effort requiring all federal agencies to make “rooting out systemic racism” central to their work.
Another executive order reinforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to require that the federal government does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a policy that reverses Trump administration actions.
Mr. Biden is moving to extend a federal moratorium on evictions and has asked agencies, including the Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development Departments, to prolong a moratorium on foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages that was enacted in response to the pandemic. The extensions run through at least the end of March.
The president is also moving to continue a pause on federal student loan interest and principal payments through the end of September.
President Donald J. Trump extended Secret Service protection for his adult children for six months, as well as for two cabinet secretaries and the White House chief of staff, an administration official said on Wednesday.
The protections are for each of Mr. Trump’s adult children and their spouses, as well as the former Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, the former national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien and the former chief of staff Mark Meadows, the official said.
The Washington Post reported earlier on the extensions.
The moves mean that the federal government will continue to pay for expensive security arrangements for the wealthy former first family, unless President Biden decides to undo them. But that could be a delicate move for Mr. Biden that might depend on threat assessments by security agencies.
Former President George W. Bush, visiting Washington to attend President Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, privately told Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, that the congressman was “the savior” for helping Mr. Biden secure the Democratic nomination and defeat President Donald J. Trump.
“George Bush said to me today, he said, ‘You know, you’re the savior, because if you had not nominated Joe Biden, we would not be having this transfer of power today,” Mr. Clyburn told reporters on a call after the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday. Mr. Clyburn’s endorsement of Mr. Biden in the Democratic primary in South Carolina in February was credited with rescuing a campaign that had faltered badly in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“He said to me that Joe Biden was the only one who could have defeated the incumbent president,” said Mr. Clyburn, who chatted with Mr. Bush on the inaugural platform before the ceremony and took a selfie with the former president.
Mr. Bush’s office did not dispute the comment but characterized it more as simple political analysis, not a statement of gratitude to Mr. Clyburn for saving the country from another term of Mr. Trump in the White House.
“This has been a bit overhyped,” said Freddy Ford, Mr. Bush’s chief of staff. “President Bush was acknowledging the congressman’s role in saving President Biden’s candidacy — nothing more, nothing biblical.”
Mr. Bush is no fan of Mr. Trump, who beat his brother Jeb Bush for the Republican nomination in 2016. That fall, the former president voted for “none of the above” rather than casting a ballot for Mr. Trump; his father, former President George Bush, voted for Hillary Clinton; his mother, Barbara Bush, wrote in Jeb’s name. The younger George Bush has not said publicly how he voted in November, but few who know him think he voted for Mr. Trump.
At Mr. Trump’s swearing-in ceremony in January 2017, Mr. Bush was so struck by the new president’s dark inaugural address that he told Mrs. Clinton, “That was some weird [expletive].” He has since remained mostly silent, but his occasional public comments have been interpreted as rebukes of Mr. Trump’s approach to leadership.
Mr. Bush not only attended Mr. Biden’s inaugural ceremony on Wednesday but also traveled afterward to Arlington National Cemetery with the new president along with former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. He also taped a segment with Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama showed on television Wednesday night sending best wishes to Mr. Biden.
“Mr. President, I’m pulling for your success,” Mr. Bush said in the video. “Your success is our country’s success. God bless you.”
Inaugural balls are generally thrown for the winners. After a long, hard-fought campaign, the newly elected leaders, their families and their supporters have a chance to dress up and enjoy themselves.
This, like so many things in this pandemic, was not going to happen this year. Instead, “Celebrating America,” the star-filled Inauguration Day special that aired across several networks, took the party national.
This meant, for starters, that the atmosphere was far less partylike. The big reason was written in lights: the Reflecting Pool memorial, in honor of America’s Covid dead, that faced the opening act Bruce Springsteen from his nighttime stage at the Lincoln Memorial. The tone was not one of a victory bash so much as a morale boost.
Which is not to say “Celebrating America” was apolitical. It centered and valorized President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who were in fact the candidates of one party that defeated another in a bitterly fought (and violently contested) election.
It didn’t require you to be happy that they won, but it did at least assume you were capable of being happy for them. Doubtless that is still a deal breaker for some of the country.
But the special’s politics, as framed by the host, Tom Hanks, were less about policy than a kind of diagnosis of political sickness, and a hope for a cure. “In the last few weeks, in the last few years, we’ve witnessed deep divisions and a troubling rancor in our land,” Mr. Hanks said. It was like a telethon for cancer of the body politic.
The show’s politics were open but nonspecific. Mr. Biden, in the shadow of Lincoln, delivered remarks about the triumph of democracy (a repudiation of the antidemocratic attacks on the election, but only between the lines).
Ms. Harris said that in America, “We not only see what has been, we see what can be,” citing the civil rights and women’s rights movements. You could read in a reference to her election, which broke racial and gender barriers, but she left you to do that yourself.
Likewise, when the former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama appeared to wish Mr. Biden well and talk about shared American values, they didn’t need to point a finger at Donald J. Trump for America’s toxicity. We’d already seen him ourselves — or didn’t see him, pointedly, at his opponent’s inauguration.
As an entertainment show, “Celebrating America” kept its aesthetic, like its politics, basic and broad. (No one expects, or wants, edginess from a Joe Biden production.) The roster of stars wasn’t exactly apolitical: the fact that Mr. Trump was never able to assemble a Hollywood roster like this was no accident.
But the cast and the art was aggressively normie and mainstream, and the performances stuck to a theme: hope in a dark time.
The songs referenced the dark and the light and the dawn: John Legend performing “Feeling Good,” Demi Lovato doing “Lovely Day,” Jon Bon Jovi covering the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” The nighttime performances’ settings, too, emphasized bringing light to the darkness, even before Katy Perry performed “Firework” to actual fireworks over the Mall.
The subtext of “Celebrating America” was inevitably political: politics gets countries into big problems, and public action is often the only way out of them. (In pandemic America, even having members of a country band wear face masks on stage inevitably and sadly feels like a political statement.)
But the content was more the entertainment-politics equivalent of a chain restaurant with a big menu: it wasn’t going to be anyone’s favorite, but everyone could find something on the menu for them. And what the country was hungriest for right now, “Celebrating America” guessed, was to believe, with Jon Bon Jovi, that the long, cold, lonely winter would end, and the sun would come.
With the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first female, Black and Asian-American vice president, her husband, Doug Emhoff, also registered firsts of his own: the first male and the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president. Although the details of what Mr. Emhoff might do with the platform are unclear — he has discussed focusing on “access to justice” — his presence indicates slowly shifting gender roles in politics and beyond.
That shift leaves Mr. Emhoff with a responsibility to help define the role for men who come after him and alter traditional perceptions of the role of a high-profile spouse.
“I doubt people are going to be so careful about scrutinizing what he’s wearing or whether or not he decided to put new carpeting in the living quarters there at the vice president’s residence,” said Katherine Jellison, a history professor at Ohio University who studies women’s history and first ladies.
Ms. Harris and Mr. Emhoff married in 2014, while Ms. Harris was the attorney general of California. Mr. Emhoff, an entertainment lawyer, became an eager surrogate for his wife on the campaign trail. After the general election, Mr. Emhoff left his job at the law firm DLA Piper amid questions about whether his work could pose conflicts for the Biden-Harris ticket. Mr. Emhoff joined the faculty at the Georgetown University Law Center and is teaching a course called Entertainment Law Disputes this semester. A transition official declined to make him available for an interview.
Chasten Buttigieg, a former theater teacher and the husband of Pete Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and Mr. Biden’s pick for transportation secretary, recalled a moment on the campaign trail with Mr. Emhoff. “I’m not a theater guy,” Chasten Buttigieg said Mr. Emhoff told him. “I’m just, you know, a husband, and I’m here to tell people why I love Kamala.”
With Mr. Emhoff’s new role, men in the United States could see that they could step back “and let women lead,” Chasten Buttigieg said in an interview. “And women can be the ones who hold the power in a relationship, and also like what it means to be a loving and supportive spouse, and sometimes that means taking a back seat or encouraging your spouse to fly.”
In an interview posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday, Mr. Emhoff reflected on the legacy he might leave for future vice-presidential spouses.
“I’m going to really take what I learned as I move into this role, but I’m also going to make it my own,” he said. “I understand that I am the first gentleman to hold this role, and I certainly do not want to be last.”