EDITORIAL: Biden can't do it alone
President Joe Biden had his pen warmed up and ready to go.
After taking the oath of office at noon on Wednesday, Biden set about the work of undoing four years of bad decisions, lack of leadership and short-sighted thinking under former President Donald Trump.
Trump had barely made it to his new home at Mar-a-Lago before Biden was busily signing executive orders to eradicate Trump policies on immigration, climate change, environmental protections and more.
By the end of his first day in office, Biden had stopped construction on Trump's signature border wall, reversed the travel ban from some Muslim-majority countries and enacted a mask mandate for all federal buildings.
He took the United States back into the Paris accord on climate change and rejoined the World Health Organization. He revoked the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline and placed a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He extended the ban on evictions and paused federal student loan payments and interest accumulation.
Biden signed 17 executive orders on his first day. He showed up with a stack of folders just waiting for his signature to begin to remold the federal government in a new image.
On his second day, he planned to sign 10 executive orders on the coronavirus pandemic, from a mandate for passengers on planes, trains and buses to wear masks to a measure allowing the use of the Defense Production Act to direct companies to produce personal protective equipment and syringes for vaccinations.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is ordered to set up vaccination centers and to reimburse states for using their National Guards to create the centers. FEMA is also using its Disaster Relief Fund to help reopen schools.
And all of that is very important and must be done right away if we are going to pull ourselves out of the depressing morass of the Trump years and recover from the pandemic and have any hope of reversing climate change and overcoming so many other challenges the former president left behind. Lives, literally, are in play, and many of these measures have been on hold for too long already.
But to ensure that the necessary changes are made and stick, Biden can't just do it all himself. Congress must get behind this agenda. Republicans must be brought on board, agreements and bargains must be made.
The push and pull between the executive and the legislative branches must begin with Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Congress holds the purse strings, and while Democrats are in control in both houses, budgetary measures require 60 votes in the Senate, where the parties are at an even split, 50-50.
With 47 years of experience in Washington, Biden knows the importance of consensus building more than anyone. He's sent a message with 27 executive orders in two days: Things are changing, right now.
The next message should be the same, but with a different focus. Things must change, right now, in the relationship between the White House and Congress. Now that the man who pointed a violent mob at the Capitol has left town, it's up to Biden and the leaders in both parties to forge that new relationship and build on it to produce legislation needed for real, lasting change.
That's the only way to ensure that the next Republican in the Oval Office won't just as easily wipe away all of Biden's work with a few signatures.