WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden has taken the helm as the 46th president of the United States, summoning the tradition of American resilience to confront a historic confluence of crises. He used his inaugural address to urge people to come together to heal a nation left deeply divided by a tumultuous four years.
Biden declared that “democracy has prevailed” as he took the oath at a U.S. Capitol that had been battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks earlier.
As he took the oath, he gazed out over 200,000 American flags planted on the National Mall to symbolize those who could not attend in person because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vice President Kamala Harris has broken the barrier that has kept men at the top of American power for more than two centuries. The former California senator took the oath of office Wednesday, making her the first female vice president in the nation's history, as well as the first Black woman and first person of South Asian descent to hold the position.
She was later escorted to her new office building and presided over the Senate for the first time to swear in three new Democratic senators — delivering the oath of office to Democrats Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla.
Their arrival gives Democrats the Senate majority in the split 50-50 chamber, with Harris as a potential tie-breaking vote. That's alongside Democratic control of the House and White House — unified government to tackle the new president’s agenda.
But Republican leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands. And Republicans are blocking Inauguration Day confirmation of Biden's Cabinet picks, though votes are still possible late Wednesday.
On his first day in office, Biden planned to move quickly toward dismantling Donald Trump's legacy by signing a series of executive actions that reverse course on immigration, climate change, racial equity and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the stroke of a pen, Biden intends to halt construction on Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall, end the ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries, rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization and revoke the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Biden in his inaugural address said the need for climate action couldn't be “any more desperate or any more clear.” Biden is also expected to launch a series of climate-friendly efforts that could transform how Americans drive and get their power. That includes a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in the Arctic wilderness.