This page will track what Joe Biden does in his first 100 days in office. Bookmark it to monitor his progress. For more coverage of the Biden administration visit our hub, listen to our American politics podcast and sign up to our weekly newsletter.
AS A CANDIDATE, Joe Biden cast himself as a steady, experienced hand. His cabinet reflects those virtues. Antony Blinken, the nominee for secretary of state, is a former deputy secretary of state; Janet Yellen, whom Mr Biden picked for the Treasury, previously chaired the Federal Reserve. It is also a cabinet of firsts. Deb Haaland will be the first Native American cabinet secretary, Ms Yellen the first female Treasury secretary, Lloyd Austin the first African-American to run the Pentagon, Alejandro Mayorkas the first immigrant to helm the Department of Homeland Security.
Mr Biden’s cabinet-rank choices evince the same emphasis on diversity and experience. The most unusual addition is John Kerry, a former senator and secretary of state, as presidential envoy for climate—a new position, and one that signals the importance which the incoming administration places on global warming, environmental policy and multilateralism.
Donald Trump’s cabinet was mainly old, pale, male and inexperienced. Nearly half of Mr Biden’s nominees are women; half are non-white. Almost all his choices have previous government experience; all have worked in the public sector. Putting diversity ahead of ideology has had interesting consequences for the centrist septuagenarian. The left wing of the Democratic Party may have objected to Mr Austin’s ties to Raytheon Technologies, a large defence contractor, but the historic nature of his nomination quelled any serious criticism. That the Democrats will very narrowly control the Senate should also help Mr Biden confirm his more progressive choices. Ms Haaland, for example, might have faced a tougher road with a Republican majority.
Beyond the cabinet
More than 1,250 executive-branch jobs require Senate confirmation. That includes not just cabinet secretaries, who tend to be well known, but also more obscure positions such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response, or members of the St Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Advisory Board. Secretaries are the public faces of their departments; much of the government’s work happens further down the chain in these obscure but often crucial positions.
Ambitious politicos may start out knocking on doors in the bone-chilling cold of an Iowa December, but the White House is where they want to end up: in a tiny, windowless office in the West Wing, the closer to the Oval the better. The White House staff includes the chief of staff—the president’s gatekeeper and information manager—as well as more policy-centred jobs, such as the national security adviser, and various jobs that keep the place running. Most White House staff positions do not require Senate confirmation; they serve at the president’s pleasure. Joe Biden comes into office with a far fuller roster than his recent predecessors did.
Executive orders are directives from the president to executive-branch agencies. They are not laws, but they can still accomplish much: the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, freeing enslaved people in the South, was an executive order, as was Franklin Roosevelt’s command to send Japanese-Americans to internment camps in 1942. Every president except one has used them, some more than others. James Madison and James Monroe issued one each; FDR issued 3,721—a record.
There is no shortage of problems for the Biden administration to tackle. In the final year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the country grappled with the largest civil-rights protests in American history, wildfires devastated western states, and a global pandemic killed 400,000 people and caused the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. This section tracks which issues Americans view as most important. With many hospitals still overwhelmed by covid-19 patients and lockdowns threatening local economies, it is unsurprising that health care and jobs take top billing. Mr Biden says he wants to take a more energetic federal approach to curbing the virus. He will probably use executive orders to do so.
Before entering office, Joe Biden vowed to deliver 100m vaccine shots by his 100th day in office. Success will depend on many things, including the supply of approved vaccines, the effectiveness of local governments in distributing them and, crucially, the willingness of people to get the jab. America was already contending with widespread vaccine scepticism before the coronavirus pandemic. Persuading people that the vaccine is safe, and fighting misinformation and conspiracy theories, will require a massive outreach campaign.
Read the best of our coverage of the Biden presidency, then sign up for Checks and Balance, our weekly newsletter and podcast on American politics.