The Biden-Harris Administration can make needed policy changes through executive actions or legislation. These two approaches are complementary and should both be used. Getting progressive legislation passed by Congress will be difficult but possible with narrow control of both the Senate and the House. However, there are literally hundreds of important executive actions that the Biden-Harris Administration could take on day one (or shortly thereafter) that are well within its existing authority.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) issued 99 executive orders in his first 100 days and 3,721 over the course of his presidency. Some of them were monumental, such as the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration, which addressed a major infrastructure issue, and the Civil Works Administration, which created millions of jobs to address the unemployment of the Great Depression. These times call for the Biden-Harris Administration to be bold and to aggressively use executive orders to address the serious problems facing our country. Similar to FDR’s situation, Biden and Harris are facing a country in need of relief from a serious recession and high unemployment coupled with a need for major infrastructure investments. They also, of course, have to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and its effects.
The American Prospect magazine and the Biden-Sanders unity taskforce (which was created at the end of the Democratic primaries last summer) have identified 277 executive actions that the Biden-Harris Administration could take immediately. All of them are policies that have broad support within the Democratic Party. Many of them simply more fully implement or better enforce current laws. They would take important steps toward addressing important problems.  
In summary, the Biden-Harris Administration could, without having to wait for Congress:
- Revamp many aspects of our immigration system (see specific examples below),
- Address climate change along with energy and environmental issues (see specific examples below),
- Improve our education system and reduce the burden of student debt (see specific examples below),
- Make our tax system and economy fairer (specific examples will be in my next post),
- Make important reforms in the criminal justice system (specific examples will be in my next post),
- Expand access to health care and lower drug prices (specific examples will be in my next post), and
- Strengthen the safety net by expanding unemployment benefits as well as housing and food assistance (specific examples will be in my next post).
Specific executive actions could include:
- Change immigration policies
- Enact a 100-day ban on deportations while reviewing current immigration and border practices
- Rescind the “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy, which is effectively a family separation policy
- Rescind policies limiting admissions of refugees and asylees
- End the freeze on issuing new green cards, which allow non-citizens to permanently live and work in the U.S.
- Rescind the declaration of an emergency for the purpose of funding a Mexico border wall
- Address climate change, energy, and environmental issues
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement
- Re-protect federal land including reinstituting bans on mining and drilling
- Reinstate the Clean Power rule limiting carbon emissions from power plants
- Re-institute and then strengthen auto and truck emissions standards
- Reinstate the Cabinet-level Interagency Council on Environmental Justice
- Tighten regulations on the release of methane, sulfur dioxide, ozone, mercury, and coal ash
- Make all 3 million government vehicles at all levels of government zero-emission vehicles
- Buy clean energy and require federal contractors to do so as well
- Make home energy efficiency programs accessible for low-income households
- Establish a task force for planning the transition to clean energy including supports for displaced workers
- Improve our education system
- Reduce student debt through various loan forgiveness programs and suspend debt payments during the pandemic
- Reinstate the program to eliminate racial disparities in school discipline
- End federal contracts with student loan servicers who have a history of misleading clients
- Encourage states to develop and adopt a “multiple measures” approach to assessment
- Appoint a federal task force to study charter schools’ impact on public education and make recommendations to strengthen public schools
- Aggressively enforce the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
- Facilitate pathways for early childhood educators to obtain higher education degrees
- Require for-profit colleges to demonstrate their return on investment before allowing their students to be eligible for federal student loans
Once President Biden and Vice President Harris have been inaugurated, I urge you to contact them and encourage them to act boldly using executive orders to improve racial and social justice as well as the economic well-being of every working American.
My next post will present examples of executive actions the Biden-Harris Administration could take on economic, criminal justice, health and health care, and other issues.
 Moran, M., 7/28/20, “The 277 policies for which Biden need not ask permission,” The American Prospect (https://prospect.org/day-one-agenda/277-policies-biden-need-not-ask-permission/)
 Dayen, D., Fall 2019, “The day one agenda” and related articles, The American Prospect (https://prospect.org/day-one-agenda)