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Introducing the Executive Action Tracker

When we started the Day One Agenda in September 2019, we hoped that the next Democratic president would realize the power of the executive branch to implement existing statutes in ways that would benefit the American people. It was a series that provided a road map for how to make change in a gridlocked era, without new legislation or input from Congress. Joe Biden came into office and took at least the spirit of the concept to heart.

For practically every day in his first two weeks in office, Biden has taken executive action in a host of areas, from the climate crisis to racial equity, from immigration to trade, from economic policy to the COVID vaccine rollout, and a whole lot more. There have been approximately 45 different executive actions taken thus far.

More from David Dayen

This is welcome news, but it’s not exactly groundbreaking news. All presidents signal a turning of the page to a new era by producing an early flurry of executive orders that either roll back the policies of their predecessors or point in a new direction. Biden has been unusually active in that regard, but by reversing Trump policies. That’s useful and important, but it’s a bare-minimum expectation for a Democratic president to not continue down a fundamentally conservative, destructive path.

We are committed to monitoring these executive actions for the duration of the Biden presidency.

We wanted to figure out whether Biden’s set of early actions lined up with the Day One Agenda. The Prospect team looked at over 40 articles we’ve written on this subject, and came up with 77 discrete actions identified in them, policies that President Biden could implement on his own authority. Today, we’re launching the Executive Action Tracker (EAT), a running tally of which of these actions Biden has implemented throughout his presidency.

As you can see, of the 77 items we’re tracking, Biden has taken action on 12 of them in whole or part, in his early blitz of executive orders and memoranda. That’s not a bad start, although it’s a bit less of a sea change than what’s been reported.

One of the 12 was solved for Biden before he reached office; he didn’t need to reverse a Trump-era policy that denied 800,000 home care and child care workers the right to join a union, because a federal judge had struck down the policy. But the other 11 are legitimate exercises of executive power, with far-reaching implications for millions of Americans.

For example, on public-land policy, a January 21 action initiated a review of the Trump-era reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in southern Utah, with an eye toward restoring them. The Department of the Interior has also suspended, for 60 days, new oil, gas, and coal leasing on public land. Existing leases were not suspended, and a flood of permitting late in the Trump administration gives this action limited reach. There’s also no telling what will happen at the end of the 60-day review, making this a partial credit on the tracker.

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We also gave Biden partial credit for rejoining the Paris Agreement, as a prelude to developing more advanced emission reduction targets for the 2025–2030 period, to be negotiated at the next global climate talks, which we called for. Another climate policy that was part of our Day One Agenda was a recalculation of the “social cost of carbon,” which would be folded into all cost-benefit analysis on whether to reduce carbon emissions. The Biden team took action on that on day one. In another climate-related item we called for, Biden directed agencies across the government to purchase clean energy and green the…

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