Biden-Harris administration must take strong steps to tackle environmental and public health crises
The first 100 days of President Joe Biden’s term appear very promising if Biden and his administration are able to achieve what they set out to do. On the issue of COVID-19, Biden outlined a plan to vaccinate 50 million Americans in his first 100 days that includes expanding the population of people eligible and increasing the number of vaccination sites as well as the supply and distribution of vaccines. Understanding the effectiveness of masks, Biden also strengthened federal mask mandates—requiring them in federal buildings and for public transportation and air travel.
Biden hopes to get a $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed in Congress with funds dedicated to Americans who are unemployed, food insecure and in danger of being evicted. A $15 minimum wage is among the many points outlined in the plan—a much needed increase, since the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009. The plan also includes billions of dollars in aid to schools and universities so that they are able to safely reopen.
We have witnessed the consequences of climate change only worsen in the last year: 2020 tied for the warmest year on record and California surpassed records of acres burned due to increased wildfires that have been clearly linked to climate change. We are hopeful about a president who will implement policies to actually combat climate change. On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order recommitting the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accords, and he rescinded a permit for the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline—a project which would increase environmental risks.
Many of Biden’s ambitious plans will require cooperation from Congress, and with a razor-thin majority in the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris will have to serve as a tiebreaker on issues opposed by all Republicans and supported by all Democrats that only require a simple majority to pass.
Harris’ position is so much more meaningful than her pivotal role in the Senate, however. She is the first woman—and the first woman of color—to serve as vice president. It is difficult to put into words what this means to American women and American women of color. If nothing else, this representation at least helps in visualizing the possibilities for many women who do not have role models who look like them in positions they aspire to attain.
Biden’s cabinet is diverse and filled with highly-qualified members: Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III will be the first Black American to lead the Defense Department; Deb Haaland will be the first Native American appointed to a cabinet position; Katherine Tai will be the first woman of color to serve as the U.S. trade representative.
This new administration brings hope, not just for present circumstances but also for what the future may look like—a future that is more likely to exist with the proposed action being taken to combat climate change. It also brings a reminder that our political leaders must be held accountable.
Compared to the constant scandals and turmoil of the Trump administration, we recognize that it is easy to idealize Biden and Harris. Although we are impressed with many of the plans Biden has put forward, scientists have called for stricter environmental regulations and others have said 100 million doses of the vaccine in the first 100 days is not enough.
While we remain cautiously optimistic that the administration will accomplish its goals, we need to hold Biden and Harris accountable throughout their time in office to ensure that their actions reflect their campaign promises.
Written by: The Editorial Board