President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team are preparing for an early, all-out push to tackle the new administration’s primary policy goals during Biden’s first 100 days in office. NACD expects the Biden administration to quickly pursue an ambitious new COVID-19 relief package – assuming Congress is unable to act prior to year’s end – similar to $2-$3 trillion relief bills offered by congressional Democrats, while also drawing up plans for a series of executive actions aimed at undoing many of the Trump administration's efforts to reform key government agencies that we’ve seen over the last four years.
Biden ran a heavily policy-focused campaign, releasing dozens of lengthy and ambitious plans ranging from large-scale economic and environmental initiatives to broad actions on racial justice, education, and health care. A significant portion of Biden's agenda also centers on reversing positions taken by the Trump administration, especially on regulation, immigration, and foreign policy. So, what issues will the Biden administration tackle first that will have the greatest impact on the chemical distribution industry?
Well, when Biden takes office on January 20, 2021, NACD fully expects a significant shift in how the federal government addresses environmental policy, regulation, and compliance. We anticipate the Biden administration will seek to undo many of the deregulatory actions of the Trump administration and to strengthen environmental protections by adopting new standards, revising existing standards, and increasing enforcement. The central feature of Biden’s environmental platform is its “Clean Energy Future” agenda, with a target of a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To accomplish this, the Biden administration is excepted to rejoin the Paris Climate accord immediately and begin to pursue regulatory measures to combat climate change with a focus on reducing air emissions, advancing alternative fuels and electric vehicles, pursuing clean energy initiatives such as renewables and carbon capture methodologies, reducing fossil fuel development, and prioritizing environmental justice concerns. However, while there will be a new sheriff in town this January who has his eye on reversing the previous administration’s strategy of reducing the regulatory burden, not all the changes mentioned above will be immediate. Nevertheless, it is imperative that chemical distributors be prepared for a shift in regulatory approach from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Unlike Biden’s plans for reimaging environmental policy that will take time to institute fully, a campaign pledge that Biden is likely to deliver on during his first days in office will be to raise corporate income taxes to 28% — compared with the current 21% rate set by the GOP-led tax cuts of 2017. Also, this promise falls under Biden's larger proposed tax plan, for which he asserts that Americans making less than $400,000 would not pay more in taxes.
Finally, President-elect Biden has repeatedly stated his desire to address the state of our nation’s infrastructure early in his presidency. Given the possibility of facing a divided government if the Senate remains in GOP-control, Biden would be wise to select infrastructure as his first major policy priority to pursue following passage of a comprehensive COVID-19 relief stimulus bill. Politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that our country’s infrastructure is due for a much-needed upgrade. Biden has called for a $1.3 trillion investment in rebuilding U.S. infrastructure over the next decade, proposing the repair of highways, bridges, and roads while stabilizing the highway trust fund and creating new jobs that he says would include protections for workers and unions. By working together on an infrastructure package, Biden and lawmakers on Capitol Hill could show the American people that bipartisan agreement is still possible even as the country appears to be more divided than ever.
As the president-elect sorts through which priorities to push first, he'll need to consider that he is likely to face a divided Congress. Control of the Senate is still up in the air, with two Georgia runoff elections set for January, but Republicans are poised to maintain control. Democrats also have a slimmer majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, where the GOP made gains contrary to most party leaders' and analysts' predictions. We are hopeful the political dynamic on Capitol Hill will mean Biden may have to pull back from some policy proposals that many on the left of his party have been pushing on health care and the environment — and, instead, focus more immediately on issues that could attract bipartisan support, such as providing COVID-19 relief and improving U.S. infrastructure.