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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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.

5:10 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

New Radicals reunite to perform in honor of Beau Biden during the inauguration parade

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

Gregg Alexander of the New Radicals performs during the Virtual Parade Across America on January 20.
Gregg Alexander of the New Radicals performs during the Virtual Parade Across America on January 20. Handout/Biden Inaugural Committee/Getty Images

The band “New Radicals” reunited for the first time in 22 years to perform a song with a personal connection to President-elect Joe Biden’s family during the virtual inaugural parade.

The group performed their 1998 hit “You Get What You Give” as the part of the virtual “Parade Across America,” a song that was a favorite of Biden’s late son, Beau Biden.

“When we heard that our song ‘You Get What You Give’ was a Biden family anthem, we pledged that if Joe won we would get together and play our little song both in memory and honor of our new President’s patriot son Beau and also with the prayer that Joe will be able to bring our country together again,” said Gregg Alexander, frontman of the New Radicals.

In her eulogy of Beau Biden in 2015, Ashley Biden, the President-elect’s daughter, described the tune as a “theme song” for Beau, who often played it for her while he was battling brain cancer.

“In retrospect, I think Beau played that song during our mornings together – not for him, but for me,” she said. “To remember to not give up or let sadness consume me, consume us.”

Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, also used the song as his walk-up song during the presidential campaign.

5:01 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Closets filled and refrigerator stocked as White House readies for the Bidens

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

There's much work to be done as the White House prepares for new tenants.

In the small window of time between Donald Trump's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue departure, and ahead of President Joe Biden's arrival, staffers are feverishly preparing for a new first family.

"They [the Bidens] will spend the night there after a thorough deep clean worthy of a pandemic," reported CNN's Kate Bennett from on the ground in Washington, DC.

Meanwhile, with so much political work to be done, Biden need not worry about the clothes on his back nor the food in his stomach, as those details are being handled as well.

"The fridge has been stocked with their favorite foods," noted Bennett, adding "their closets have been filled with their clothes ... this is now their home."