With Joe Biden projected to become the next President of the United States, businesses are starting to assess what the new administration will mean for them. In the near term, President-elect Biden’s top priorities will likely be the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy, including additional economic stimulus and vaccine distribution. In the longer term, his administration will ultimately develop policies on a wide range of issues over the next four years, addressing everything from taxes to healthcare to the environment.

Key Dates in the Presidential Transition

After a turbulent presidential election, the first question many business owners and executives are asking is what happens next?

This month, President-elect Biden will likely begin announcing his cabinet picks. Traditionally, members of the transition team will also begin meeting with the leaders of various federal agencies; however, the fact that President Trump has not yet conceded and is challenging the election results in court is slowing this process.

Under federal law (3 U.S. Code § 5), December 8 is the deadline for state lawsuits and recounts to be resolved. The Electoral College will meet and cast their votes on December 14. While there is some concern that some electors could vote for Trump in protest despite Biden winning their states, a total of 33 states and the District of Columbia have faithless elector laws that require electoral college members to cast ballots for a pledged candidate.

The deadline for states to deliver certified electoral college results to the Vice President of the United States is December 23, 2020. On January 6, a joint session of Congress must count the electoral votes, and Vice-President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, will announce the winner. Finally, on January 20, 2021, the President and Vice-President will be sworn into office.  

What Businesses Can Expect from a Biden Administration

While the specific policies of the Biden Administration will be important, many corporate executives believe that predictability may be the biggest change from a Trump to Biden presidency. So while the new policies may not be as business-friendly, there will likely be greater business certainty.

In terms of policy, some areas will likely see significant changes, while others will maintain status quo. However, the speed and extent of such changes will be influenced by Congress and the courts. Although President-elect Biden has pledged to overturn several Trump Administration policies via executive order, if Republicans maintain control of the Senate, policy changes are likely to be more incremental. Legal challenges to some of the Biden Administration’s progressive policies may also benefit from the conservative-leaning judiciary that President Trump installed during his tenure.

With regard to specific policies, taxes are always a top concern for the business community.

Biden has stated that he would like to reverse many of Trump’s tax reforms under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which would include increasing the corporate tax from 21 percent to 28 percent. However, such changes would require Congress to get on board.

With regard to antitrust activities, Biden has stated that the anti-competitive activities of Big Tech firms like Facebook, Amazon, and Google warrant investigation. However, it was not a primary issue in his campaign. In terms of trade, Biden will likely look to rebuild relationships with our allies. However, his administration is likely to continue Trump’s hardline approach on China, and it is unlikely he will remove the Section 232 and Section 301 tariffs against China, at least not immediately. During the campaign, Biden said he would “get tough on China,” particularly with regard to the theft of intellectual property.

President-elect Biden stated during the campaign that the environment is a top priority. In the near term, he plans to immediately rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and roll back the Trump Administration’s efforts to relax pollution and emissions requirements. He also plans to use executive action to incorporate climate change into the regulations of various federal agencies. While President Biden has also set a goal of reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050, the ambitious initiative would require Congressional action.

Businesses may also see less business-friendly employment laws and regulations under the new administration. President-elect Biden supports raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, establishing paid family leave at the federal level, banning non-compete agreements for workers, and overhauling how businesses classify independent contractors compared to employees. While some of Biden’s employment policies can be accomplished through federal rulemaking, others, such as raising the minimum wage and establishing paid leave, will require legislation.

Key Takeaway

Presidential transitions can lead to upheaval for the business community, particularly when the administration changes from one party to another. In the coming months, we encourage business owners and executives to work with experienced counsel to stay on top of legal changes and navigate the shifting regulatory landscape.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Teddy Eynon, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.