Lauretta Brown is the Register’s Washington-based staff writer.
Advancing abortion rights and ‘LGBT’ agendas have been features, alongside economic, environmental, and COVID-19 policies.
WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office come to a close, an assessment of what he has accomplished in this time reveals that his top priorities included addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, expanding abortion access and advancing the transgender ideology.
The Biden administration has also attempted a significant amount of action in the areas of immigration and the environment, as well as moves to address racial tensions and advance proposals for police reform.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has remained one of the most pressing issues for Biden, and he surpassed his goal of getting 100 million Americans vaccinated during his first 100 days in office, announcing recently that more than 200 million Americans have received a COVID vaccine. Some critics have pointed out that this accomplishment is due in part to the Trump administration’s efforts toward rapid vaccine development.
Biden halted the Trump administration’s planned departure from the World Health Organization (WHO) shortly after his inauguration and appointed Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and a key member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, to represent the United States on the WHO’s executive committee.
Biden signed a $1.9-trillion COVID relief package in March that included payments of up to $1,400 for most U.S. citizens, extended a $300-per-week boost to unemployment insurance through Sept. 6, and expanded the child tax credit for a year. The relief package included $20 billion for COVID-19 vaccinations and $25 billion in rental and utility assistance.
But there was criticism of the package from Catholic leaders for its lack of standard Hyde Amendment protections against taxpayer-funded abortion despite its billions of dollars in healthcare funding.
In a joint statement, members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said, “the many important, life-saving provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act have been undermined because it facilitates and funds the destruction of life, which is antithetical to its aim of protecting the most vulnerable Americans in a time of crisis.”
On the heels of the passage of the COVID relief package, Biden proposed a $2.25-trillion infrastructure package that would include $621 billion for modernizing roads, bridges, repairing public transit, and building 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, along with other transportation infrastructure. Another $111 billion would go toward replacing lead water pipes and upgrading sewers, and $100 billion would fund countrywide broadband internet. In a departure from typical infrastructure spending, the plan also includes $400 billion for long-term home and community-based care for the elderly and disabled.
The Biden administration plans to pay for the proposal with a “Made in America Tax Plan,” which would reverse the Trump administration’s tax cuts by raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, increase the global minimum tax multinational corporations must pay to 21%, and impose a 15% minimum tax on the income corporations report to shareholders.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the plan was “called infrastructure, but inside the Trojan horse it’s going to be more borrowed money and massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy.” Republicans have proposed an alternative $568-billion infrastructure plan that would not include tax increases.
During his address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, Biden announced his $1.8-trillion American Families Plan, which includes a $109-billion plan to make two years of community college free and $200 billion for universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-old children. The plan would enable qualifying families to spend no more than 7% of their income on child care and expand child tax credits already passed in the COVID-relief package. This plan would be financed through tax hikes that reverse the Trump administration’s tax cuts for the top income bracket. Tax rates for single individuals making more than $452,000 annually and joint incomes above $509,300 are increasing from 37% back up to 39.6%. For households making more than $1 million, the top rate on capital gains and dividends would go from 20% to 39.6%.
On the abortion issue, Biden quickly rescinded Trump’s expanded Mexico City Policy, which barred taxpayer funding for abortion overseas. He also moved to reverse his predecessor’s partial domestic defunding of Planned Parenthood accomplished by barring abortion providers from Title X family-planning funds.
President Biden also acted recently to lift long-standing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restrictions on the abortion drug Mifepristone, which will now permit women to take the pill at home without direct medical supervision. The Biden administration also removed the requirement for the National Institutes of Health Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board to review research proposals involving aborted human fetal tissue.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, told the Register via email that “the Biden administration clearly hopes to use the next four years to reverse all pro-life gains this country has seen in the last 50 years. His very first initiative, COVID relief, allocated only 9% to actual relief, yet opened up billions for his domestic and foreign abortion allies — while ignoring 40 years of pro-life protections provided by the Hyde and Helms Amendments. He followed this with repealing the life-saving Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy and opening up millions of tax dollars for the abortion industry through Title X. To implement these radical policies, he has nominated, and the Senate has confirmed, a who’s who of abortion radicalism — most notable is his unqualified HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. President Biden entered office speaking of unity; however, it is clear his policies are ones of disunity.”
“President Biden’s hostility towards life goes against not only the teachings of his faith but the desires of the American people,” she added. “2021 Marist polling found that 58% of Americans are opposed to taxpayer dollars paying for abortions domestically, and a whopping 77% oppose funding for international abortions, including 64% of those who self-describe as ‘pro-choice.’”
One action that Biden named as a “top legislative priority” in his first 100 days in office was the passage of the Equality Act, legislation that would expand the protected classes in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
The USCCB warned that the legislation would “punish faith-based charities such as shelters and foster-care agencies, and in turn their thousands of beneficiaries, simply because of their beliefs on marriage and sexuality,” and “force both people and organizations in much everyday life and work settings to speak or act in support of ‘gender transitions,’ including health-care workers and licensed counselors, even when it’s against their professional judgment.”
While Biden has been unable to push the Equality Act through Congress due to opposition in the Senate, he has issued a series of executive orders during his first 100 days in office that accomplish some of the Equality Act’s aims.
On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in regards to employment, housing, health care, and education, including school sports. Just days later, Biden issued an order reversing the Trump administration’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. In March, Biden established a White House Gender Policy Council to “ensure that the federal government is working to advance equal rights and opportunities, regardless of gender or gender identity, in advancing domestic and foreign policy.”
Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington and director of the Catholic Women’s Forum, told the Register via email that “advancing the transgender agenda is a top priority for the Biden administration.” She referenced the executive order President Biden signed “effectively redefining ‘sex’ for federal purposes to include sexual orientation and gender identity,” saying, “gender identity is an invented category that completely undercuts the intent of laws and regulations that protect against sex discrimination. Sex is objective, knowable, and binary — we are male or female. The administration is effectively erasing the legal and institutional recognition of sex — our identities as male or female — and privileging the invented concept of ‘gender identity’ as the determining factor in a person’s identity. … It is completely unworkable as a legal category, and there is no basis for giving it privileged status over the rights of faith-based persons or organizations — and females.”
“The Biden administration has prioritized gender identity (and effectively erased sex-based protections for females) throughout the federal government, in policies relating to education, grants, federal benefits, housing, the military, health care and foreign policy,” she continued.
She added, “It is a sweeping disregard of reality — in practical terms, we have an administration that is governing based on a fiction, detached from reality. Policies are being dictated to appease a powerful political base — the LGBTQ lobby — rather than out of a genuine concern for treating people fairly.”
Biden focused on immigration on the first day of his presidency, with five executive actions that included strengthening the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, overturning the Trump administration’s restrictions on U.S. entry for residents of seven Muslim-majority countries, reversing the Trump administration’s expansion of immigration-policy enforcement within the U.S., and halting construction on the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Biden’s order to halt construction on the border wall included a 60-day review; and despite a month passing since the review period, the White House still says the review is ongoing. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reportedly told agency employees that construction may resume plugging some of the “gaps” along the wall, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that “there is some limited construction that has been funded and allocated for, but it is otherwise paused.”
While Biden signed an executive order in February condemning the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border and establishing an Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families, families continue to be separated as parents in tent encampments on the Mexico side send their children over the border alone as unaccompanied minors so that they will not be sent back. The administration has struggled to respond to the record number of unaccompanied minors at the border.
When asked about the cap of 15,000 on refugees, Biden responded, “We’re gonna increase the numbers. The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people, and we couldn’t do two things at once.” The White House later stated that it is not the administration’s official position that the situation is a “crisis.”
While the U.S. bishops have been supportive of some of the other elements of Biden’s immigration plan, Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, D.C., the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, commented in a statement that “the number of refugees who will be welcomed this year is far short of what we can do as a country and is not an adequate response to the immense resettlement need.”
He added that “we appreciate that the U.S. refugee admissions program will now offer previously left out refugees an opportunity to resettle in our country. At the same time, we were hopeful that the Biden administration would increase the ceiling for refugee admissions in this fiscal year, and we are disappointed that it has not yet done so.”
One of Biden’s first actions as president was to cancel the construction of the XL Keystone Pipeline and have agencies review and reverse more than 100 actions taken by the Trump administration on the environment. He rejoined the Paris climate accord and recently hosted a “Summit on Climate” for 40 world leaders, where he announced that the U.S. will target reducing emissions by 50%-52% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Pope Francis was one of the world leaders who participated in the climate summit, delivering a short video message in Spanish in support of its objectives.
Biden promised on the campaign trail to ban new oil and gas leases on federal lands, and he issued a broad moratorium on them in the first month of his presidency. The administration is facing a lawsuit from 13 states led by Louisiana, alleging that the moratorium violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Mineral Leasing Act and would cause their states serious economic harm.
The administration has also attempted to address racial tensions in the wake of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd. One of Biden’s first executive actions directed federal agencies “to review their actions to ensure racial equity.” He vowed on the campaign trail to create “a national police oversight commission” in his first 100 days in office. However, that plan was put on hold in April.
“Based on close, respectful consultation with partners in the civil-rights community, the administration made the considered judgment that a police commission, at this time, would not be the most effective way to deliver on our top priority in this area, which is to sign the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act into law,” Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council, said in a statement to Politico.
That House-passed legislation would lower “the criminal-intent standard — from willful to knowing or reckless — to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution,” limit “qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer,” and grant “administrative subpoena power to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in pattern-or-practice investigations.” It would also restrict “the use of no-knock warrants, chokehold, and carotid hold” and create a registry to “compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct.”
The legislation has stalled in the Senate, where Republicans have a competing proposal, authored by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., that would strengthen “training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding de-escalation of force and the duty to intervene … and will also end the practice of utilizing chokeholds” and would require “a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension and discipline of law enforcement officers.”