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Joe Biden becomes 46th president in unconventional inauguration

Joe Biden
Posted at 3:59 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 20:31:39-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KERO) — It’s finally official, Joe Biden is now the 46th president of the United States, and Kamala Harris is the first woman to assume the office of vice president. Wednesday’s inaugural events were unconventional in many ways because of the ongoing pandemic and because of the absence of former President Donald Trump. 23ABC’s Austin Westfall explains how the inaugural events unfolded, and how local leaders were involved in this major day.

Biden Inauguration

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PHOTOS: Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

3:32 PM, Jan 20, 2021

It was at about 9 am Wednesday morning when history was made as the 46th president - Joseph R. Biden - was sworn into office. The new president gave his inaugural address with no crowd, and current and former U.S. leaders nearby. Congressman David Valadao, who represents part of Kern County, was in attendance.

“It is always amazing to think that at one moment, you've got one party in charge, and just like that, you've got a different party in charge. And it really is a magical moment,” said Valadao. “Normally we’re up on the platform sitting amongst my colleagues and this time they had us spread out all over the place trying to keep us socially distanced.”

In Biden’s inaugural speech, the president acknowledged the country is struggling amid a deadly pandemic, while also calling for unity.

Joe Biden
Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura and former President Bill Clinton and his wife former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stand at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In attendance were Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama, Senator Mitch McConnel, and outgoing Vice President Mike Pence along with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who presented a photo of the inauguration to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

“Every time you look at this photo, remember the beginning of the job we have to do. Congratulations.”

Notably absent from Wednesday’s inaugural events was outgoing President Donald Trump, who flew home to Florida before the ceremony.

McCarthy also tweeted out thanks to former President Trump.

Trump was not mentioned by name in Biden’s address, as the 46th president looked to bring a divided country together.

“Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated, and even manufactured,” said Biden.

Biden Inauguration

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Full transcript: President Biden's inauguration speech

Justin Boggs
5:03 PM, Jan 20, 2021

Now with a Democrat in office and a Republican out, 23ABC asked Valadao where the Republican Party should go from here, and how he’ll work with Biden. His response is also rooted in uniting.

“Making sure that we find those areas where we agree, and working together and unifying the country. I mean, with what's happened over the last couple of weeks, looking to heal the country is more important than anything.”

The Inaugural Ball usually takes place on the first night of a new president’s term. That will not be happening Wednesday night because of the pandemic. President Biden, however, announced a number of executive actions on day one, reversing Trump's policies having to do with immigration and climate change, among others.

Here are among the orders Biden signed and is expected to sign this evening:

EXTENDING THE PAUSE ON FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS: Last month, the Trump administration will sign an order to continue a pause in federal student loan repayments through the end of January. The Biden White House says the pause on federal student loan payments will run through September 30. The executive order is expected to be followed by legislation that will offer partial forgiveness of federal student loans for borrowers.

100-DAY MASK MANDATE: The Biden administration will require masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal lands and by federal employees and contractors.

REJOIN THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Nearly a year after Trump removed the United States from the World Health Organization, Biden signed an order to rejoin the WHO. As part of rejoining the WHO, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is has been asked by Biden to serve his chief coronavirus adviser, will deliver remarks to the WHO Executive Board tomorrow.

EXTENDING EVICTION AND FORECLOSURE MORATORIUMS: The Biden White House is calling on the CDC to extend the federal eviction moratorium through at least March 31. Biden is also calling on federally guaranteed mortgages and applications for forbearance be extended through at least March 31. Also, Biden is directing the Federal House Finance Agency to extend its foreclosure and eviction moratoriums through at least February 28.

REJOIN THE PARIS AGREEMENT: After Trump removed the US from the worldwide Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the US will rejoin the accord within 30 days. The Paris Agreement was first signed by the Obama administration in hopes of reducing emissions in an effort to slow down the rate of global climate change.

INCLUDING UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS IN THE CENSUS: Biden will reverse a Trump directive that called on excluding undocumented immigrants from the reapportionment count in the census. The reapportionment count is used to divvy congressional seats to states. In previous decennial censuses, undocumented immigrants were included in the count.

LAUNCH AN INITIATIVE TO ADVANCE RACIAL EQUITY: Biden is calling for embedding equity across federal policymaking and rooting out systemic racism and other barriers to an opportunity from federal programs and institutions. As part of the order, Biden rescinded the 1776 Commission formed by Trump, Biden claims has sought to erase America's history of racial injustice. Biden is also calling on every federal agency to undertake a baseline review of the state of equity within their agency and deliver an action plan within 200 days to address unequal barriers to opportunity in agency policies and programs.

REMOVING VISA BANS TO PREDOMINATELY MUSLIM NATIONS: Biden will sign an executive order to lift bans on issuing new visas to nationals of certain mostly Muslim nations, including Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Syria and other nations.

STOP BORDER WALL CONSTRUCTION: The Biden administration will immediately terminate the national emergency declaration that allowed Trump to reallocate defense funds to be used to build the border wall. Trump reallocated the funds after Trump struggled to get funding through Congress for one of his top policy goals. The issue of using defense funds was hotly-contested in federal court.

INCREASE PROTECTIONS FOR ‘DREAMERS’: Biden will sign an order to call on Congress to enact legislation providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children and remained in the nation since their childhood.