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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden talks like a soothing centrist. He promises to govern like a soothing centrist. But early moves show that he is keeping his promise to advance a liberal agenda.

Why it matters: Never before has a president done more by executive fiat in such a short period of time than Biden. And those specific actions, coupled with a push for a more progressive slate of regulators and advisers, look more like the Biden of the Democratic primary than the unity-and-restraint Biden of the general election.

The big picture: Biden handed some of his most visible positions, including Treasury Secretary, to "old-timers" like former Fed chair Janet Yellen, says Joseph Trevisani, senior analyst at FXStreet.

  • "But the power positions, where vast changes can be effected with a rule or regulatory change, are going to the younger officials like Rohit Chopra," Biden's choice to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The backstory: Trump appointee Kathy Kraninger resigned as CFPB director, clearing the way for Biden to nominate Chopra, an FTC commissioner and acolyte of Sen. Elizabeth Warren who worked with her on establishing the CFPB, as its next director.

  • That, coupled with a Wall Street Journal report that Biden is set to name former Obama Treasury official Michael Barr as Comptroller of the Currency, the major regulator of big banks, looks like the continuation of a more progressive trend.

On immigration, a coalition of 200 U.S. mayors challenged the new administration to adopt a highly progressive agenda — one that would give everyone a pathway to citizenship — only to find their announcement upstaged by Biden's pledge that he would try to enact nearly all the reforms they are pressing for.

Between the lines ... Biden wants to have his cake and eat it too, says Jaret Seiberg, financial services and housing policy analyst for Cowen Washington Research Group:

"That will work in the short-term, but eventually those progressives who are taking over key jobs will impact the regulatory environment. Changes will be more dramatic than what the market may be expecting based on Biden’s cabinet picks and other top advisers."

The other side: The party's center has been shifting left for years, and Biden arguably just moved with it.

  • His executive actions so far have largely just rolled back parts of the Trump legacy, including rejoining the Paris climate deal, and freezing 11th hour regulations pushed through by the last administration.
  • Biden also extended a Trump-era student loan payments pause, and foreclosure and eviction moratoriums, that that were set to expire.

One sign of the delicate dance to appease the most progressive members of his party: In response to Biden's decision to extend the student loan pause, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "OK now let’s cancel them."

  • Biden's campaign said it would ask Congress to cancel $10,000 in student debt for borrowers, CNBC reported earlier this month.

Courtenay Brown and Jennifer Kingson contributed reporting.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Takeaways from Biden's sweeping order on climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's mammoth executive order on climate policy weighs in at over 7,500 words and resists any single narrative, but I've got a few initial takeaways.

Why it matters: The order aims to marshal the entire federal government behind new initiatives, so that means agencies that may not have the muscle memory or expertise of the resource and environmental branches like EPA and DOE.

Institutionalizing Trumpism

Protesters supporting Donald Trump march down Fifth Avenue in March. Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Republican officials are rendering an unequivocal verdict: They want to cement former President Trump's politics and policies into the foundation of the GOP for many years to come.

Why it matters: The debate over Trump's post-election hold on the GOP is over — it has gotten stronger since the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

Epic's long game against Apple

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Epic's Apple lawsuit is costing the company dearly, but the game developer has its eye on a valuable long-term goal: prying tomorrow's virtual worlds loose from the grip of app store proprietors like Apple.

Between the lines: Epic isn't spending a fortune in legal fees and foregoing a ton of revenue just to shave some costs off in-app purchases on today's phones. Rather, it's planning for a future of creating virtual universes via augmented and virtual reality — without having to send a big chunk of their economies to Apple or Google.