Democrats are calling on a key government agency to sign off on President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and aid in the mammoth task of transitioning between presidents before Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
The General Services Administration, headed by Trump appointee Emily Murphy, has resisted signing the paperwork that would give Biden and his team access to millions of dollars in transitions funds, as well as official access to government officials and equipment to prepare the incoming administration, according to The Washington Post.
Until Murphy formally ascertains that Biden has won the election, the former vice president cannot access government funds or communicate with federal agencies. Biden’s team, for example, cannot receive the same intelligence briefings as Trump because of the GSA’s refusal to sign off on the election results. Acknowledging Biden’s victory would also grant his team access to $9.9 million for salaries and spending up to the inauguration.
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“We hope you will recognize that every hour between now and January 20, 2021 is critical for the transition team’s preparations for taking on the multiple, pressing challenges our nation faces,” Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, who serve on committees overseeing the agency, wrote in a letter addressed to Murphy on Monday.
“In the spirit of national unity and common purpose in addressing the needs of the American people, we request that you extend the necessary funding, resources, and assistance to the transition team upon their request and without delay,” the senators added.
The letter cited the GSA’s obligation under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, which promotes the orderly transfer of executive power between presidents.
The standoff between the GSA and the Biden team is unlikely to end soon. Trump continues to refuse to concede the election to Biden by citing baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. Top Republicans ― including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) ― are standing with him.
A spokesperson for the GSA told Politico on Monday that the agency’s position on the matter is unchanged.
“An ascertainment has not yet been made,” the spokesperson said.
Some GOP senators said on Monday that it was time to begin the transition process, even as they acknowledged Trump had a right to contest results in court, no matter how unlikely such an effort would prove at changing the result.
“There’s a very likely prospect that there will be a change in administration and for the purposes of a smooth transition and national security, we have a national interest in the transition proceeding as rapidly as can be done,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has congratulated Biden on his win, told HuffPost on Monday.
But Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which handles election matters, downplayed the impact of a delayed election certification by the federal government.
“Until just a few years ago, there was no federal money for the transition. Twenty years ago, George W. Bush didn’t have any money for the transition until almost January,” Blunt told HuffPost. “I don’t think the transition is as hinged on the federal government stepping up and saying ‘we’re going to start paying for everything today’ as it is on knowing what you’re doing.”
Read Cardin and Van Hollen’s letter below.