United States – Despite the latest count of 290 electoral votes for Joe Biden to Donald Trump’s 214, the Biden transition is stuck. In order for it to get underway, the General Services Administration (GSA) is traditionally tasked with initiating the process. The GSA’s current administrator, Emily W. Murphy, is a Trump loyalist appointee. Murphy has to sign a document releasing the transition funds — an ascertainment. But Murphy won’t sign it. GSA is opening the door to a tricky Biden transition.
Yet, there’s another historic first with this transition. Monday afternoon The Hill reported that Kamala Harris’ husband will head to Washington to work as part of Biden’s transition team. Douglas Emhoff is the first male spouse of a female vice president. He will work on the Biden transition team “to support the work of the administration” according to a spokesman. Emhoff is a partner in the Los Angeles law firm, DLA Piper.
Currently, there’s no mention of the ascertainment issue on the GSA website. Current Affairs Times sent an email asking when Ms. Murphy will sign the document. We are still waiting for a response. CNN reports this week that “A GSA spokesperson declined to provide a specific timeline for when ascertainment would take place…”
This is what happens when the other side just won’t play nice. Donald Trump is still refusing to concede the election. He’s also spoiling for legal court fights amid his unsupported accusations of voting fraud.
Still, even without the ascertainment, the Biden transition won’t lack for money to get started. Vast sums of cash raised during the campaign can help fuel the team’s work.
The biggest obstacle to overcome is getting unfettered access to department heads all across the government. Biden’s transition team organized in June. There has been moderate cooperation with the Trump administration since that time. But all that fellowship crumbled on the days leading up to and since Biden was declared president-elect. Without access to all the various governmental departments, Biden’s team will face a slowdown in filling almost 4000 positions.
Now, there’s a new wrinkle with Attorney General Bill Barr launching investigations into the ongoing allegations. In his memo to the FBI and other attorneys general, Barr writes, “I authorize you to pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions.” On its face, this means that the transition can’t move forward until Barr’s “investigations” remove any taint of alleged vote-tampering. In the meantime, the coronavirus pandemic is spiraling out of control. Hospitals across the country are facing maxed-out intensive care units. Nursing homes are at risk again while hospitals run out of beds. It’s a dire situation for a new administration to face.
Despite the obstacles, the president-elect has updated his website to reflect the Biden administration priorities on Day One. These include:
- Assembling a task force of 13 leading scientists and policymakers to work on controlling the coronavirus
- Rebuilding the economy
- Addressing racial inequity and social justice
- Tackling climate change
On top of these priorities, national security concerns are growing. President-elect Biden is not receiving daily presidential briefings. Donald Trump is not legally obligated to provide access to the briefings. However, this has been a standard courtesy extended from outgoing to incoming administrations for decades.
In this ironic about-face over the intelligence briefings that Trump never read himself, bad actors could strike. They could even compromise a nation’s security during the space between administrations. Threats range from hacking various national systems to outright military moves. Without such daily presidential reports, our country may be at risk.
Since Trump’s loss, Republicans have regrouped enough to fall in line behind election deception rhetoric. Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who recently won his own reelection, came out in support of Donald Trump. On the Senate floor this week McConnell said, “Let’s not have any lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election.”
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stepped up to the podium and blasted McConnell’s statement. Schumer said, “Republican leaders must unequivocally condemn the president’s rhetoric and work to ensure the peaceful transfer of power.”
In the interim, the Biden-Harris team continues to work. The president-elect continues to reach out to both parties for help in building a new coalition. On its website, the new administration says “The efforts of the transition focus on determining implementation options for policy, developing management agendas for federal agencies, and selecting personnel to serve in the administration.”
Even without total access to transition funds and daily presidential briefings, Team Biden is barreling forward. With top Trump lieutenants down with COVID-19; Biden has no time to lose. How long can Republicans hold off the transition with unfounded lawsuits? Can GSA bring the transition to a full stop?
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