By LIBBY CATHEY, ADIA ROBINSON, JACK ARNHOLZ, MEREDITH DELISO and LAUREN KING, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — This is Day Two of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here is how events are unfolding. All times Eastern:
Jan 21, 3:46 pm
Pete Buttigieg faces questions at confirmation hearing
Biden’s pick for secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, faced some tough questions in a confirmation hearing Thursday.
If confirmed, Buttigieg would make history as the first openly gay member of the cabinet, and at 38 year old, he would be the youngest member of President Biden’s cabinet.
Buttigieg fielded questions about Biden’s executive order halting the Keystone XL pipeline. In response to a question from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas about whether the president’s halting of the pipeline would eliminate jobs, Buttigieg said Biden’s vision is to create more jobs by focusing on climate issues.
“Doing this right means ensuring there are more good, paying, union jobs for all Americans delivered to that infrastructure vision,” Buttigieg told Cruz. “The answer is we will continue to see those workers employed in union jobs, even if they are different ones.”
Buttigieg also expressed concern with the “antiquated” gas tax and said all options are on the table when it comes to adjusting the tax. He also expressed the need for predictability and stability.
–ABC News’ Sam Sweeney, Amanda Maile and Mina Kaji
Jan 21, 3:19 pm
Biden slams Trump White House’s vaccine rollout a ‘dismal failure’
With his first full day in office focused on the coronavirus pandemic, Biden delivered afternoon remarks on his administration’s plan to combat COVID-19 and faulted the Trump administration for a vaccine rollout he called a “dismal failure.” He also called on Americans to mask up.
“Things will get worse before they get better,” Biden said, expecting 500,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19 by next month. “While the vaccine provides so much hope. Rollout has been a dismal failure thus far. So I understand the despair and frustration, so many Americans and how they’re feeling.”
Pres. Biden on COVID-19: “For the past year, we couldn’t rely on the federal government to act with the urgency and focus and coordination we needed, and we have seen the tragic cost of that failure.” https://t.co/nRF9Whyuq6 pic.twitter.com/pLM1Id2yGp
— ABC News (@ABC) January 21, 2021
Biden went on to deliver what he called a “brutal truth” — that it will take “months” before the majority of Americans can get vaccinated, so in the meantime, he’s putting the “full force of the federal government” into slowing the spread of the virus and calling on the public to mask up for the next 99 days.
“The fact is that the single best thing we could do — more important in the vaccines — because they take time to work,” Biden said of the practice of wearing a facial covering, adding that experts tell him the united effort could save “more than 50,000 lives going forward.”
Pres. Biden announces increased travel measures “in light of the new COVID variants.”
— ABC News (@ABC) January 21, 2021
Biden officials say the president has entered office hamstrung by lack of coordination from the Trump White House and limited insight to where supply levels and chains on resources including N95 and high qualified quality surgical masks, isolation gowns, and test reagents stand throughout the country.
Jan 21, 2:25 pm
U.S. Secret Service ends Inauguration Special Security Event
The U.S. Secret Service announced the conclusion of the the special security event for the Inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris at noon Thursday. The Special Security Event began Tuesday night and led to road closures and increased security measures, including more than 35,000 security personnel comprising National Guardsmen and other law enforcement and more than 25 miles of fencing in Washington, D.C.
Heightened security measures put into place for Special Security Event are already being dismantled.
–ABC News’ Jack Date
Jan 21, 1:54 pm
White House clarifies that Biden intends to keep Wray on as FBI director
In a tweet Thursday morning, White House press secretary Jen Psaki clarified her comments from her first press briefing Wednesday, saying Biden intends to keep FBI Director Christopher Wray in his current role and has “confidence” in him.
“I caused an unintentional ripple yesterday so wanted to state very clearly President Biden intends to keep FBI Director Wray on in his role and he has confidence in the job he is doing,” Psaki tweeted.
When asked about Biden’s plans for Wray during her first press briefing Wednesday, Psaki said she had not spoken with Biden about Wray specifically in recent days.
“I think — I have not spoken with him about specifically FBI Director Wray in recent days,” she said. “I’ll circle back with you if there’s more to convey.”
Former President Donald Trump had publicly weighed firing Wray in the wake of losing the presidential election.
Jan 21, 1:40 pm
White House economic official urges Congress to ‘act quickly’ amid high unemployment
Responding to an unemployment weekly claims report out Thursday, White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese called it “another stark reminder that we must act now on the president’s ‘American Rescue Plan’ to get immediate relief to families and spur our economy” and called on Congress to act quickly on Biden’s proposals — including raising direct payments to qualifying Americans to $2,000.
In a written statement, Deese said, “900,000 more Americans filed claims for unemployment because they are out of work in an economy that is moving in the wrong direction.”
“We must act now to get this virus under control, stabilize the economy, and reduce the long-term scarring that will only worsen if bold action isn’t taken,” he continued.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package also includes $130 billion to reopen schools safely and $160 billion to boost the country’s testing and vaccine programs.
Jan 21, 1:25 pm
McConnell slams Biden for executive actions, Schumer calls for unity on Cabinet confirmations
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in floor remarks Thursday, slammed the Biden administration for executive actions it took Wednesday as the president barrels toward dismantling his successor’s legacy at an aggressive rate.
“On the Biden administration’s very first day, it took several big steps in the wrong direction,” McConnell said, pointing to the orders to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, revoke a key permit for the proposed Keystone pipeline and halt deportations of certain non-citizens for 100 days to review its policies.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as expected, celebrated the early executive orders of the Biden administration in his floor speech.
“What a concept: A president who actually takes the defining crisis of our time seriously. What a change. And how great is the need,” Schumer said.
The new Senate leader also called for unity in confirming Biden’s Cabinet nominees.
“Let the first week of this Congress be a collaboration between our two parties to confirm President Biden’s Cabinet,” Schumer said.
Jan 21, 1:25 pm
McConnell pushes for Senate filibuster rule as power sharing agreement remains in limbo
Just after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell finished congratulating Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on his new role during his floor remarks Thursday afternoon, he turned to the first major obstacle at hand for the evenly divided Senate: a power sharing agreement.
Democrats carry control of the chamber because Harris, as president of the Senate, has the power to cast tie-breaking votes for Democrats, but with representation of each party in the Senate equal, McConnell and Schumer have been in negotiations for the the rules of the new session.
Aides familiar with discussions between McConnell and Schumer say that the outstanding issue on agreement is McConnell’s insistence that Schumer affirm his intention to leave the Senate filibuster rules — which require 60 votes to pass legislation — intact. Schumer hasn’t yet committed to that, according to aides.
McConnell called the filibuster a “crucial” part of the Senate in his floor remarks.
“If the talk of unity and common ground is to have meaning — and certainly if the rules from 20 years ago are to be our guide — than I cannot imagine the Democratic leader would rather hold up the power sharing agreement than simply reaffirm that his side won’t be breaking this standing rule of the Senate,” McConnell said.
Jan 21, 11:40 am
Pelosi argues impeachment won’t undermine unity message
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened her first weekly presser since Democrats took control of the Senate and the White House by praising Biden’s message of unity and remaining tight-tipped about when she’ll send the article of impeachment charging former President Donald Trump with “incitement of insurrection” to the Senate.
She said the chambers are “ready” to proceed and said “it will be soon” but that transmission of the article is being held up by questions about how the trial will work.
Asked whether the trial could alienate Republican supporters of the president, Pelosi argued that to not hold Trump accountable would be “harmful to unity.”
“I don’t think it is very unifying to say, ‘Oh, let’s just forget it and move on.’ That is not how you unify. Joe Biden said it beautifully. If you’re going to unite, you must remember,” Pelosi said.
“Just because he’s now gone — thank God — you don’t say to a president, ‘Do whatever you want in the last months of your administration. You’re going to get a get-out-of-jail card free,’ because people think we should make nice and forget that people died here on Jan. 6,” she said.
Pelosi didn’t rule out the the possibility that theconduct of lawmakers could come under investigation in a probe of the Capitol Hill riot, accusing some members of giving “aid and comfort” to rioters.
Jan 21, 10:53 am
Biden, Harris attend a virtual inaugural prayer service
Biden and Harris, alongside their spouses and five family members, began the day in the White House State Dining Room with a virtual inaugural prayer service broadcast from the Washington National Cathedral.
Four large television screens were set up showing the prayer while the group bowed their heads. Patti LaBelle then sang the “The Star-Spangled Banner” and everyone rose to their feet and put their hands over their hearts.
Biden, a devout Catholic and only the second Catholic president, is not shy about invoking his faith. In his first act as president after taking the oath of office Wednesday, he asked the nation to join together in silent prayer.
Jan 21, 10:48 am
Biden’s 1st day executive actions
Biden’s first full day in office is focused on the coronavirus pandemic, with the president set to deliver afternoon remarks and take 10 executive actions aimed to help get the pandemic under control.
Those actions include eight executive orders to trigger the the Defense Production Act to manufacture COVID-19 supplies, require masks in airports and on interstate transportation, require international travelers to the U.S. receive a negative COVID-19 test before arrival, establish a testing board, develop more treatments and vaccines, work to overcome the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority communities, provide guidelines to reopen schools — as well as a presidential memorandum to reimburse schools for supplies from FEMA funds — create guidelines to protect workers from exposure, and increase collection and analysis.
His two other actions expected Thursday are a presidential memorandum directing FEMA to increase state reimbursements from 75% to 100% for National Guard personnel and supply costs and a presidential directive to support the international COVID-19 response, which the Biden team is calling an effort to restore America’s leadership on the world stage.
Jan 21, 9:45 am
Fauci returns to a White House press briefing
Continuing its theme that the Biden administration is “hitting the ground running,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced she’ll be joined by the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, at her afternoon press briefing in Biden’s first full day in office.
“I will also be bringing Dr. Fauci to the briefing room today as part of our effort to ensure that we’re having public health experts, medical experts leading our communication about the process that is under way to get the pandemic under control,” Psaki told MSNBC Thursday morning.
Fauci stopped appearing at White House briefings after he fell out of favor with former President Donald Trump.
Psaki told reporters at her first press briefing on Inauguration Day she plans to hold daily White House briefings Monday through Friday.
Psaki said in preparing for her new position, Biden told her that “he would be watching” her briefings, and she said that it’s a major priority for the president that her messaging “really comes from the top.”
With the first day focused on the pandemic, Psaki told CBS conversations between administration officials with counterparts on Capitol Hill on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package kicked off before the president took his oath of office and that those will continue “with speed in the days ahead” now that the administration is in place.
She also stressed the new administration wants to level with the American people that getting the pandemic under control is “going to take months and months.”
Jan 21, 9:48 am
Biden, Harris to spend first full day focusing on pandemic
Biden is waking up in the White House for the first time as the 46th president of the United States, and Vice President Kamala Harris is waking up to the fact that for the first time in American history a woman is serving as vice president.
After a historic inauguration, they’ll start the day alongside their spouses with an inaugural prayer service from the Washington National Cathedral but attending virtually from the White House Blue Room. Their first full day in office will focus on the coronavirus pandemic, with Biden set to deliver afternoon remarks on his administration’s COVID-19 response, take 10 executive actions aimed to control the pandemic and receive a COVID-19 briefing.
Ahead of introducing what it has deemed the “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,” the Biden administration addressed other top priorities overnight including moving to halt deportations of certain non-citizens for 100 days to review immigration policies. The president on Wednesday took at least 15 executive actions from invoking a mask mandate on federal properties and reversing now former President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban to moving to rejoin both the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accord, barreling faster to dismantle his predecessor’s legacy than other modern presidents.
Biden and Harris are taking office amid a racial-justice reckoning, a struggling economy and with the systems of government having come under literal attack by supporters of the man they defeated. While Wednesday’s inaugural festivities saw powerful musical performances and poetry, amid history-making formalities, the surreal fact lingered: They took the office on the same Capitol steps that violent pro-Trump protesters climbed to storm the halls of Congress precisely two weeks earlier.
In the wake of the seige and in their first days of office, Biden and Harris will also have to contend with Trump’s impeachment trial which will be taken up in the newly Democratic Senate as soon as the end of this week, competing for floor time with their legislative agenda and Cabinet confirmations.
Jan 21, 8:20 am
Fauci announces US will remain a member of the WHO
The United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, announced Thursday.
Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the announcement via video link to the WHO’s executive board in Geneva, a day after Joe Biden was sworn-in as the 46th president of the U.S.
“I am honored to announce the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization,” Fauci told the board Thursday, adding that the U.S. will also “fulfil its financial obligations” to the WHO and stop reducing its staff at the United Nations agency.
Fauci, who is Biden’s chief medical adviser on the coronavirus pandemic, also announced that the president will issue a directive Thursday that shows the country’s intent to join the COVAX Facility, a global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries regardless of income.
Within hours of becoming president, Biden had signed an executive order reversing former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the WHO. Trump had accused the organization of failing to correctly respond to the coronavirus pandemic and of allegedly giving too much power to China.
In an interview Thursday with ABC News’ Michael Strahan on Good Morning America, Fauci said rejoining the WHO is “very important” and that the country’s withdrawal “was very disconcerting to everybody.”
“When you’re dealing with global pandemic, you have to have an international connectivity, and for us to not be in the WHO was very disconcerting to everybody, all the member countries including the health officials here in the United States,” he said. “So the official announcement that we are rejoining, we’re going to live up to our financial commitments and a whole bunch of other things, it was really a very good day. I mean, the response I’m getting from my colleagues all over the world is really very refreshing.”
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