Staff Editorial

A promising start

President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, i
President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

After the speeches and ceremonies Wednesday, President Joe Biden got to work. And his initial actions appear promising, both for Iowa and the nation.

At the top of the list is a 21-page action plan to address the still spreading, still deadly coronavirus pandemic. We lacked a coherent national response plan under the previous administration, with much of the work left to the states. In Iowa, we’ve seen the weaknesses of that approach firsthand.

Biden’s pandemic orders and initiatives are aimed at rapidly improving the availability of vaccines, tests and personal protective equipment. There will be new resources for research, improved data collection and the United States will rejoin the World Health Organization.

As the economic side effects of the virus continue, Biden is extending a federal moratorium on evictions and has asked federal agencies to extend a moratorium on foreclosures for federally guaranteed mortgages. Biden is also extending relief on student loan payments through September.

The Biden administration is rolling back draconian immigration policies and restrictions we’ve long opposed, halting the border wall and rescinding a ban on travel to the U.S. from a list of predominantly Muslim countries.

Federal agencies will no longer be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, matching Iowa’s own civil rights law. Limits on diversity and inclusion training by federally funded entities are lifted.

There also are clear, early signs that environmental protection will be a priority again after four years of regulatory rollbacks threatening the nation’s natural resources.

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All and all, it’s a good start toward refocusing the nation’s priorities to its most pressing issues.

We’ll be watching for more progress in the coming days. Of course, here in Iowa, we’re closely monitoring how the Biden administration will address trade policy and the loss of agricultural markets after four years of destructive trade wars.

We hope to see a plan addressing climate change that includes a critical role for agriculture to be part of the solution. Incoming U.S. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack said this week carbon capture and other measures would provide new income streams for farmers.

Although executive orders have the advantage of swiftness, we hope Congress will act with its own sense of urgency on pressing issues, in particular passing new coronavirus relief with bipartisan majorities. After the violence and tumult of this past month, it’s essential Americans see fresh proof their elected leaders can still work together in functioning institutions.

(319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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