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For Biden, now comes the hard part

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
President Joe Biden arrives to swears in presidential appointees during a virtual ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House on Jan. 20, 2021.
President Joe Biden arrives to swears in presidential appointees during a virtual ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House on Jan. 20, 2021.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Presidential victory? Check.

Inauguration complete? Yup.

Now comes the harder part: governing — especially during a deadly and economically damaging pandemic.

Today, on his first full day in office, President Joe Biden will sign 10 executive orders as his new administration releases its national strategy to combat the coronavirus.

That strategy includes:

  • launching a national vaccine campaign (getting doses to communities and high-risk populations that need them, as well as opening up venues to deliver the vaccine to Americans);
  • reducing the spread of the virus (requiring and promoting mask wearing, expanding testing);
  • exercising the Defense Production Act and increasing FEMA's response to the virus;
  • beginning a national strategy of reopening schools;
  • establishing a COVID health equity task force;
  • and restoring the United States’ partnership with the world (rejoining the WHO).

This is what almost every day for the new Biden administration has to be: Covid, Covid, Covid.

Even as the new president has to respond to other events and actions, like the Chinese government slapping sanctions Wednesday on departing Trump officials such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

What Biden’s “unity” message really means

When you re-read Biden’s inaugural address from yesterday, his call for unity was NOT about achieving bipartisan 100-0 votes in the Senate.

Or Republicans suddenly endorsing long-standing Democratic policies.

Or Democrats abandoning their own policy goals.

Rather, he defined unity as dialing down the temperature of American politics and policy disagreements — so the country doesn’t return to what happened on Jan. 6.

“Let's begin to listen to one another again. Hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another,” Biden said.

“Politics does not have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement does not have to be a cause for total war.”

That’s what Biden meant by unity — keeping policy disagreements as policy disagreements, and not as war.

Biden’s first full day on the job

At 10:00 a.m. ET, President Biden and Vice President Harris watch a virtual inaugural prayer service. At 12:45 p.m. ET, they receive the President’s Daily Brief. Biden delivers his remarks on COVID at 2:00 p.m. ET. And White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

24,555,709: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 183,404 more than yesterday morning.)

407,345: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 4,431 more than yesterday morning.)

122,700: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus.

287.52 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

100 million: How many vaccine shots the Biden administration is pledging to give in 100 days.

More than $400 million: How much Biden wants for pandemic response in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

More than 250 points: How much theDow Jones Industrial Average jumped yesterday, with markets reacting positively to Biden’s inauguration and the promise of more economic Covid-19 relief.

100 days: How long DHS will halt deportations as the new Biden administration reviews department policies.

22: The age of Amanda Gorman, the young poet laureate whose read her work “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration.

3: The number of Democratic senators sworn in yesterday by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Tweet of the day

One confirmation down, many more to go

President Biden will start his first full day as president with one confirmation for his Cabinet.

On Wednesday night, the Senate confirmed Avril Haines to be the Director of National Intelligence by an 84 to 10 vote. Haines is the first woman to lead the U.S. intelligence community.

The 10 votes “nay” votes were: Blackburn (Tenn.), Braun (Ind.), Cruz (Texas), Ernst (Iowa), Hagerty (Tenn.), Hawley (Mo.), Lee (Utah), Marshall (Kan.), Paul (Ky.) and Risch (Idaho).

But Haines being the sole confirmation on Jan. 20 leaves Biden in a tough spot. Former President Trump had two secretaries confirmed on Inauguration Day; Barack Obama started his first full day in 2009 with six confirmed secretaries; and George W. Bush had seven confirmations on Jan. 20, 2001.

The Senate will gavel back into session at noon ET today.

The Lid: Thomas Jefferson, relatable area man

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at how this inauguration compared with some in the past.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald writes that inauguration during this era meant “most of the pomp stripped away by the necessity of circumstance.”

What does “unity” mean to Republicans? Critics say they mostly mean moving on from the Trump era without accountability.

Biden set to work signing executive orders yesterday afternoon. Here’s what was in them.

Biden is also unveiling the framework for an immigration plan.

Here are the changes Biden has made to the décor in the Oval Office — and what they symbolize.

A National Labor Relations Board general counsel refused to resign between administrations. Biden fired him.

Kamala Harris won’t move into the VP’s residence right away as it undergoes repairs.

Some QAnon followers are losing faith after yesterday’s inauguration went off without disruption. (Many of the Proud Boys are disillusioned with Trump, too.)

Michael Flynn’s brother was involved in one of the calls in which some Army leaders resisted the deployment of the National Guard to the Capitol on January 6. The Army denied it for days.