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Government/Politics

Watch: What Biden Is Doing On His First Day As President

Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States
POOL/REUTERS
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U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th U.S. President, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20, 2021.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

Just hours after he was sworn into office on Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden has signed three of 17 planned executive actions to try to hit the ground running on his top priorities — and to roll back some of President Trump's initiatives in those areas.

The signed actions include: a mandate for masks on federal property, a second about underserved communities and a third to have the country rejoin the Paris climate deal.

"No time to start like today," Biden told reporters in the Oval Office Wednesday afternoon.

"We have a long way to go," he said, adding he'll need to work with Congress on top priorities.

Biden wants to build momentum on his plans to address the COVID-19 crisis, the economy, racial justice and climate change. Among the many measures, he plans to revoke President Trump's travel ban affecting Muslim-majority nations and extend the ban on evictions and foreclosures as a result of the pandemic.

"The president-elect has promised to root out systemic racism from our institutions," said Susan Rice, Biden's domestic policy adviser, ahead of Biden's inauguration. "This initiative is a first step in that historic work. Delivering on racial justice will require that the administration takes a comprehensive approach to embed equity in every aspect of our policy making."

Updated at 12:10 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden became President Biden at noon Eastern time, after he took the oath of office to become the nation's 46th commander in chief.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts conducted the swearing-in ceremony. Biden placed his hand on a family Bible.

There ceremony took place on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, on the same stage that was stormed by pro-Trump insurrectionists just two weeks ago. Stringent security measures are in place to protect the nation's leaders from any more violence.


Watch special coverage beginning at 10 a.m. CT.

Between the security risks and the raging coronavirus pandemic, the in-person audience has been limited to a small fraction of the typical crowd. Millions of viewers are expected to be watching from home. A solemn event conducted virtually may be the new normal for this pandemic, but it still marks a surreal departure from the traditional inauguration ceremony.

For Biden, the swearing-in marks the end of a decades-long, hard-fought quest for the presidency — and the beginning of a new challenge, as the administration combats simultaneous crises while governing a deeply divided nation.

Curious about what, exactly, Biden is swearing to? The presidential oath of office is laid out in the Constitution:

"I do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The option to "affirm," rather than swear, is rarely used, and is provided for those whose religious beliefs do not support swearing.

After his swearing-in, Biden will deliver an inaugural address. You can follow live annotations by NPR journalists here.

As is customary, Biden's swearing-in follows the swearing in of the vice president. Kamala Harris was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, using two Bibles: one that used to belong to Thurgood Marshall, and one that belonged to Regina Shelton, a close family friend and mother figure to Harris.

The vice president's oath is slightly different than the presidential oath, matching the oath taken by members of Congress:

"I , _________, do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."

That oath has been in place since 1884. During the Civil War, an oath was adopted requiring representatives to swear they had never been disloyal to the United States. After the war was over, this "Ironclad Test Oath" was discontinued in the name of unity, but portions of it continue on in this longer version of the oath of office.

Events for the day include:


11 CT: Swearing-in ceremonies followed by Biden's inaugural address. (Follow live analysis of Biden's speech here.)

1 p.m. CT: Wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery. Biden and Harris will be joined by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

2 p.m. CT: Presidential escort to the White House followed by a virtual "parade" with scenes across the country.

6 p.m. CT:Press briefing with Biden press secretary Jen Psaki.

7:30 p.m. CT: Evening program hosted by Tom Hanks with musical performances by John Legend, Jon Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake and more.


Follow live updates here.

Biden will come into office facing a public health crisis, a battered economy and deepened political rifts, as well as global concerns such as climate change. Still, he projects optimism, vowing to help heal the nation.

As part of his promise to the American people, Biden has sought to make his Cabinet the most diverse in U.S. history, reflected in part by Harris, who will be the first woman, the first African American and the first Indian American to hold the office of the vice presidency.

Biden's election victory marked the end of the Trump White House era, which was plagued by personal and political scandals, two impeachments and a call to action at the U.S. Capitol that was answered by violent, pro-Trump insurrectionists. Trump is not attending Wednesday's ceremony.
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