The inauguration of Joe Biden

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:42 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021
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6:17 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden's director of national intelligence likely to get confirmed tonight

From CNN's Manu Raju

Avril Haines speaks during her confirmation hearing as Nominee for Director of National Intelligence on Capitol Hill on January 19, in Washington, DC.
Avril Haines speaks during her confirmation hearing as Nominee for Director of National Intelligence on Capitol Hill on January 19, in Washington, DC. Melina Mara/AFP/Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, dropped his hold on Avril Haines to be director of national intelligence, announcing on the floor that she had answered his outstanding questions.

"I'm ready to vote on this nomination," Cotton said.

Democratic and GOP senators expect she will be confirmed tonight with a big bipartisan vote.

President Joe Biden will then have one of his nominees on Inauguration Day; former President Trump had two, while former President's Barack Obama and George W. Bush had even more.

5:40 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

The US is getting back in the Paris climate accord. Here are key things to know. 

From CNN’s Drew Kann

Hours after he was sworn in, President Joe Biden sent notice to the United Nations that the US will reenter the Paris climate accord, the landmark international agreement signed in 2015 to limit global warming, a sign of Biden's urgency to address the climate crisis.

The US abandoned the agreement late last year on former President Trump's orders. Trump spent much of his time in office weakening many of the country's bedrock climate and environmental guardrails.

Experts say that rejoining Paris is a significant step by the Biden administration to reverse the climate policies of the last four years.

Now comes the hard work: As he takes the reins of the executive branch, the challenges that Biden faces rival any confronted by his 45 predecessors — an out-of-control pandemic, a sputtering economy and the threat of right-wing extremist violence stoked by viral misinformation.

Biden's action on Paris sends a strong message that the US is prepared to cooperate in the fight against climate change and seek to reclaim the leadership role it once held, experts say. Under the agreement, countries are expected to enhance their commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions every five years.

In 30 days, the US will be back in the agreement. From there, experts expect the pressure on the Biden administration to ratchet up.


5:33 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden signs first executive actions as president, including mandating masks on federal property

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Joe Biden, on camera, signed three executive orders Wednesday meant as early signs of his priorities and the start of an effort to erase his predecessor's agenda.

"This is going to be the first of many engagements we’re going to have in here," Biden told reporters, appearing for the first time in the Oval Office. "I thought with the state of the nation today there’s no time to waste. Get to work immediately."

Biden signed an order requiring masks on federal property, one meant to ensure racial equality and another rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Biden said they would be the first of many during his first days in office.

"As we indicated earlier we’re going to be signing a number of executive orders over the next several days to week," he said.

"Some of the executive actions that I’m going to be signing today are going to help change the course of the Covid crisis and combat climate change in ways we haven’t done so far," he went on.

He called the moves "starting points" that fulfilled his promises during the campaign.

"I think some of the things we’re going to be doing are going to be bold and vital and there's no time to start like today," he said.

"There’s a long way to go. These are just executive actions," he went on. "But we’re going to need legislation for a lot of these we’re going to do."

CNN reported that Biden plans to take 17 executive actions during his first hours in office, moving faster and more aggressively to dismantle his predecessor's legacy than any other modern president.

5:34 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Mitch McConnell says he looks forward to working with Biden "wherever possible"

From CNN's Daniella Diaz and Annie Grayer

Senate TV
Senate TV

Sen. Mitch McConnell spoke on the Senate floor for the first time as Senate minority leader of the 117th Congress.

McConnell praised President Joe Biden for his speech today, specifically for emphasizing his call for unity and finding common ground.

“We swore in the 46th President and the 49th Vice President of the United States. President Biden and Vice President Harris are both alumni of the US Senate, they’re well known to us in this chamber. They begin their terms with both challenges and opportunities before them. And with the praise of our whole nation at their backs, President Biden made unity the major thing of his inaugural address,” McConnell said.

He also congratulated Harris for her historic role.

“This groundbreaking achievement elicits national pride, it transcends politics. All citizens can applaud the fact that this new three-word phrase 'Madam vice president' is now a part of our American lexicon,” McConnell said.

5:29 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Kamala Harris on presiding over the Senate: "So far so good"

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

As she was leaving the Capitol after presiding in the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris was asked how it felt to take the chair as the now-president of the Senate. 

“So far, so good. Working every day,” she said, calling the feeling “amazing.”

Earlier today, Harris swore in three senators: Georgia’s Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, as well as Harris’ replacement in California, Alex Padilla.

With the swearing-in of three Democratic senators, the party breakdown of the Senate will be 50-50. Harris wields power as the Senate's crucial tie-breaking vote.

5:24 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Schumer says he is "full of hope" in speech on Senate floor

From CNN's Annie Grayer and Daniella Diaz

Senate TV
Senate TV

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in his speech on the Senate floor he is "full of hope" with the Democratic majority and President Joe Biden in the White House.

“We have turned the page to a new chapter of history of our democracy and I am full of hope,” he said.

He said the Senate plans to be busy and he wants to work with his Democratic colleagues. 

"And to my Republican colleagues, when and where we can a Democratic majority will strive to make this important work bipartisan. The Senate works best when we work together. We have no choice. The challenges we face are great. The divisions in the country are real. We have no choice but to try to work together every day to reward the faith the American people have placed in us. So let us begin," Schumer said.

6:14 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden says Trump left him "very generous" letter

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden said his predecessor left him a "very generous letter" before departing office.

Speaking from behind the Resolute Desk, Biden said he would not reveal the contents of the letter out of respect for former President Donald Trump.

"The President wrote a very generous letter," Biden said. "Because it was private I will not talk about it until I talk to him."

5:29 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden signs "bold" actions in first appearance in Oval Office

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Joe Biden told reporters he is signing "bold" executive actions during his first appearance in the Oval Office.

"There’s no time to start like today," Biden told reporters.

He said these actions are meant to keep his promises to the American people.

"We’re going to need legislation for a lot of the things," Biden said.

Biden plans to take 17 executive actions during his first hours in office, moving faster and more aggressively to dismantle his predecessor's legacy than any other modern president.

Biden will sign a flurry of executive orders, memoranda and directives to agencies, making his first moves to address the coronavirus pandemic and undo some of Donald Trump's signature policies.

Watch the moment:

5:13 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Rep. Linda Sánchez will lead Biden-Harris immigration legislation in the House

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez and Lauren Fox

Rep. Linda Sánchez speaks during a news conference on July 29, 2020.
Rep. Linda Sánchez speaks during a news conference on July 29, 2020. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

As President Joe Biden begins his first day in office, a group of House Democrats announced that they will lead the effort to pass Biden’s immigration bill on Capitol Hill. 

In a narrowly-held Senate, the climb on immigration is steep especially given how far to the right Republicans have moved in the issue since the 2013 bipartisan bill. Still, this is yet another sign of the coordinated approach the Biden administration is taking with Democratic allies on the hill to push their agenda forward. 

Reps. Joaquin Castro, Raul Ruiz, and Linda Sánchez spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday about the legislation, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

Biden’s bill, titled US Citizenship Act of 2021, addresses the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the US, boosts border technology, and targets the root causes of migration, according to incoming White House officials.

More details: The bill provides an immediate pathway to citizenship for farmworkers, recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, and Temporary Protected Status holders. It also sketches out a plan for undocumented immigrants that would allow them to eventually apply for green cards if they pass background checks and pay taxes.