WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed four executive actions Tuesday aimed at advancing racial equity as part of his push to use the powers of the presidency to implement parts of his agenda.
The executive actions direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to "take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies that have contributed to wealth inequality for generations," according to a fact sheet shared by the White House.
The executive actions also end the Justice Department's use of private prisons, recommit the federal government to Tribal sovereignty and take steps to combat discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that has intensified during the coronavirus pandemic.
"For too long we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester," Biden said in a speech ahead of signings.
Biden said that closing the racial income and opportunity gaps would boost the economy for all Americans, adding that all federal agencies and White House offices would be tasked with tackling inequality.
"When we lift each other up, we're all lifted up. And the corollary is true as well — when any one of us is held down, we're all held back," Biden said.
The White House earlier Tuesday called the actions "just the start," adding that Biden is "committed to working with Congress to pass bold legislation that advances racial equity, including increasing funding for small businesses, investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions, and tripling funding for Title I schools, which serve a majority of low-income students."
Susan Rice, who as Biden’s domestic policy adviser is one of the highest-ranking Black aides in the White House, said that economists estimate that $5 trillion could be added to the economy over the next 5 years if the racial gaps in income and opportunity are closed.
"Building a more equitable economy is essential if Americans are going to compete and thrive in the 21st century," Rice told reporters at a press conference.
"I believe we all rise or fall together. Advancing equity is a critical part of healing and restoring unity in our nation."
The White House said that the executive order to not renew private prison contracts only applies to the Justice Department and not the Department of Homeland Security, which has contracts with privately operated immigration detention centers.
The executive orders Biden signed soon after being sworn in as president last Wednesday included one that directed the federal government to "pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality."
Under the order, the White House Domestic Policy Council, led by Rice, will be responsible for coordinating with various federal agencies including the Office of Management and Budget, to advance racial equity proposals. Biden directed OMB to assess “whether underserved communities and their members face systemic barriers in accessing benefits and opportunities available.”
In other news:
- Vice President Kamala Harris swore in Janet Yellen as the first female treasury secretary. The Senate confirmed Yellen on Monday evening.
- The Senate voted to confirm Antony Blinken's nomination as secretary of state.
- All 100 senators were sworn in for the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. House impeachment managers delivered the single article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday evening.
- Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and addressed major national security concerns, including the SolarWinds Hack, election interference and the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
- Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, both received their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.