By Victor ReklaitisRobert Schroeder
A previous version of this report misstated Aaron Klein’s title at the Brookings Institution. It has been corrected.
Joe Biden’s actions in his first 100 days as president will ripple across the U.S. economy, including major industries — but how far he can push his agenda will depend on who’s in charge of Congress.
Senate control is still undecided ahead of a pair of Georgia runoff elections on Jan. 5, and a divided Congress would limit the new president’s reach. If bipartisan compromise proves fruitless, there’s still plenty that Biden can do by executive order to achieve campaign promises and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to hammer the U.S. economy . The Democratic president-elect has already suggested some steps he’d take unilaterally.
Here’s a look at some key sectors and how they could be impacted by Biden’s first 100 days — with or without a Democratic majority on Capitol Hill.
COVID-19 and medical coverage
Biden promised in a Dec. 8 speec h to focus on three goals in his first 100 days as he addresses the COVID crisis — “masking, vaccinations, opening schools.”
He said he’ll encourage Americans to wear face masks for 100 days as well as require coverings in places where he has that power, such as federal buildings.
The president-elect also said he’s aiming to get “at least 100 million COVID vaccine shots into the arms of the American people in the first 100 days,” and he pledged to have “the majority” of schools open by the end of his first 100 days — “if Congress provides the funding we need to protect students, educators and staff, if states and cities put strong public-health measures in place that we all follow.”
The authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. looks like it could come within days, as a regulatory meeting on Thursda y served as a final step before that decision for the candidate from Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +0.56% and BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +1.10% .
Beyond the coronavirus crisis, Biden’s agenda for health care has long centered on building on Obamacare, meaning the Affordable Care Act that overhauled the U.S. health-care system /zigman2/quotes/205918244/composite XLV +2.00% a decade ago, when he was serving as former President Barack Obama’s vice president.
But Biden may be only able to make “incremental ACA policy changes via administrative and regulatory authorities” given expectations that Republicans could keep their grip on the Senate, said Kim Monk, an analyst and managing director at Capital Alpha Partners, in a note. Republicans need to win just one of Georgia’s two Senate runoffs to maintain control of the chamber.
Biden’s Obamacare-related moves could include redirecting funds to enrollment and outreach, implementing a national special enrollment period in response to COVID, and reversing Trump regulations that are friendly to shorter-term plans that critics deride as “junk insurance,” according to Monk.
She also sees the 46th president potentially undoing a Trump policy that looks set to lead to subsidized enrollees having to pay more toward their premiums, and she expects him to make an effort to eliminate exemptions to Obamacare’s contraceptive-coverage mandate.
Energy and climate
Biden has made combating climate change one of his top issues, and the new president is expected to move quickly in this area by immediately rejoining the Paris climate accord that Trump abandoned and holding a climate summit in the first 100 days.
Also on the near-term horizon, according to Beacon Policy Advisors research analyst Charlotte Jenkins: banning new fracking on federal lands, instituting tighter fuel-economy standards and clamping down on methane emissions.
The fracking ban could have a small impact, Jenkins suggests, as just 11% of U.S. natural-gas production is done on those lands. And stricter methane rules could in fact give the energy industry /zigman2/quotes/206420077/composite XLE +3.74% a boost, she notes.
“Tighter methane rules may actually help the industry, because they will facilitate sales to Europe,” said Jenkins. “European countries are really prioritizing climate, and they want clean natural gas.”