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Politics Chat: Biden To Sign More Executive Orders In First Full Week As President


President Biden is beginning his first full week in office. He's been on calls with world leaders - Canada and Mexico Friday, the U.K. yesterday - and he's expected to sign more executive actions over the course of this week. And, of course, his team is reaching out to Congress, where the fate of his massive economic relief package will be decided. So let's turn now to NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, who is at our microphone at the White House. Hello, Ayesha.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So many of the orders Biden has been signing are part of a plan he laid out for his first 10 days. What are we expecting this week? And have there been any significant sort of deviations from the priorities we heard about?

RASCOE: Not really. Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, had laid out this plan for the first 10 days. They've generally been sticking with it. This week is supposed to be focused a lot on equity. This is something that Biden has talked a lot about, helping communities of color and underserved communities. There are supposed to be some actions also focused on reforming the criminal justice system and climate change and also expanding access to health care for low-income women and women of color.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. So things that we've heard about before, but, of course, there's this big question - right? - how much he'll have to rely on Congress to enact his agenda or how much he's going to have to lean on executive orders. What have you found out?

RASCOE: So the administration says they are reaching out to Congress. And they maintain that they really want bipartisan support for that $1.9 trillion COVID aid package. Brian Deese, Biden's top economic adviser, is supposed to be holding a call today with senators about this plan. That call will reportedly include moderate Democrat Joe Manchin and moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins. Deese said that his message on that call would be that Congress must take decisive action, or the U.S. will end up in an even bigger economic crisis. But some of these moderate lawmakers have really been questioning the need for another package since Congress already passed a $900 billion package late last year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the other thing that's happening right now, of course, is he's trying to get his people in place. It's often said that personnel is policy. What's happening with Biden's appointees?

RASCOE: Well, you know, what's stood about - stood out about Biden's appointees, the ones that don't need confirmation, is that they are all out there and talking to the public, you know, and making the case. And most of these are very experienced government hands.

So you have people like Brian Deese, who I mentioned, Biden's top economic adviser, also Jeff Zients, who's leading the coronavirus response team. And they're taking leading roles in explaining what the administration plans to do. That's really a sharp change from the prior administration, where former President Trump really was his spokesperson on every issue.

Certainly, Biden is delivering remarks every day, but his appointees are really delving into the details of how this administration plans to operate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And those are the people that he has in place. But what about the people that he's trying to get in place? I mean, those have to go through the Senate. How is that process going? And what's the latest on, you know, the power-sharing negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans? It will be so key.

RASCOE: So two of Biden's cabinet nominees have been confirmed so far, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Intelligence Director Avril Haines.

As far as the power-sharing negotiations for the Senate, they're hung up right now over debates about the filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants Democrats to take the option of getting rid of the filibuster off the table. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said that's unacceptable.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe, thank you so much.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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