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Biden to sign executive orders on COVID-19 response

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Yahoo Finance breaks down expectations and COVID-19 outlook under President Biden.

Video Transcript

MYLES UDLAND: We begin today in Washington DC, where President Joe Biden begins his first full day in the White House. The president getting right to work, signing multiple executive orders yesterday, including actions on immigration, climate change, and, of course, the pandemic response. Yahoo Finance's Jessica Smith and Anjalee Khemlani standing by this morning with full coverage. And Jess, let's begin by just talking through the expectations for Biden's schedule on his first full day as president.

MYLES UDLAND: Yeah, Myles. On his first full day, he is largely going to be focused on COVID-19. The first time we might see him this morning is as he watches a virtual prayer service with the vice president. After that, they'll get their daily briefings. And then later this afternoon, Biden will speak about the COVID-19 response, and he'll sign several executive orders all aimed at stopping the pandemic.

He is really trying to send the message that his top priority in his first couple of days in office are all about the pandemic. We saw him in the Oval Office yesterday wearing a mask, signing those executive orders. They rejoined the World Health Organization. He mandated masks on federal property and interstate travel. He also extended the freeze on student loan payments and eviction. So all of those orders aimed at either easing the economic pain or fighting the actual virus. And today, he is going to sign 10 more executive orders until he has more on those.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Thanks Jess. So as you mentioned, he really did set the tone yesterday at the inauguration with his speech, saying specifically, quote, "we are entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus." And he signed that mask mandate and, we know, at least 10 more here today with a focus on testing expansion, invoking the Defense Production Act, reopening schools and businesses, and guidance on how to do so-- of course, very welcome news for a large part of the population.

Also looking at health equity and establishing a committee on that as well as reimbursement from FEMA for vaccine and testing supplies to states. And that's something we know has been a concern, specifically on the vaccine distribution side with what states have had to do on their own this whole time. That was with CNN reporting that based on what White House sources have been able to see, there had been no real distribution plan for the vaccine. So they are basically starting from scratch. But of course, some of these actions will also need help from Biden's friends in Congress.

JESSICA SMITH: Biden said exactly that yesterday as he was signing those executive orders. He said, executive orders are important, but you have to have legislation. Of course, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package is at the top of the list. And Republicans are skeptical about that, to say the very least.

In the White House press briefing yesterday, the press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters that the White House wants to get bipartisan support on this. But the White House is not going to take other options off the table. Of course, we've heard from Senator Bernie Sanders, who says they could use reconciliation to get this done if Republicans don't get on board. That would just require a simple majority. And when Psaki was asked if there is any wiggle room on that price tag, here's what she had to say.

JEN PSAKI: It was designed with the components that were necessary to give people the relief they needed. So what's challenging is, what are you going to cut? Are you going to cut funding for vaccinations? Are you going to cut funding for unemployment insurance, or are you going to cut funding for reopening schools?

JESSICA SMITH: Myles, you may remember that bipartisan group of senators who worked to come up with that $900-billion proposal late last year that pushed leadership to hammer out a deal. That group is planning on meeting with the administration in the coming days, possibly even this weekend. So we'll see if they're able to find some common ground.

MYLES UDLAND: Certainly a lot going on down there in Washington. Jess and Anjalee, thank you both for that breakdown.