The administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) has not signed the paperwork necessary to release millions of dollars earmarked for the Biden transition team. The reason is a simple one. By signing the paperwork, the agency’s administrator essentially acknowledges the election’s winner.
The GSA administrator, Emily Murphy, is a Trump appointee. As of Monday morning, there is no indication that she will sign off on the release of the funding for the transition any time soon. President Trump has not conceded the election so this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, especially a long-time Swamp creature like Joe Biden. Yet there are headlines about Murphy’s reluctance to sign off on the money because Team Biden is pressuring her office to do so immediately. This kind of delay also happened in 2000 when the results of that election were contested.
This task that falls to the GSA administrator is not often recognized, as most post-presidential election transitions move smoothly through a traditional timeline. She will “sign paperwork officially turning over millions of dollars, as well as give access to government officials, office space in agencies and equipment authorized for the taxpayer-funded transition teams of the winner.” At the present time, we have two men declaring victory. The only ones who have declared a winner, the media, have no official role in this matter. Thus, the headlines which call attention to the situation.
A lack of official funding hasn’t stopped the work of Team Biden. They have almost brazenly taken the reins and are going about announcing policy decisions and constructing a list of executive orders that the next president will sign to undo Trump’s policies. This is how presidents govern now – through executive orders – because Congress is no more united than the American people are. Joe Biden will follow the same pattern.
“No agency head is going to get out in front of the president on transition issues right now,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The official predicted that agency heads will be told not to talk to the Biden team.
The funding will pay for salaries and travel. The transition team already has space in the Commerce Department as provided by the Presidential Transitions Act. Joe Biden made President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic the main focus of his campaign and the virus is being used as an excuse for a quicker release of funds. Today Biden announced his coronavirus response team. In other words, Biden is not so hamstrung right now that he can’t move ahead and get work done. He gets the time on cable television to make his statements, including the time this morning for his plans on the coronavirus. He’s still all talk on that subject, though, and not offering any new ideas that Trump isn’t already doing. True to form, Biden is continuing to hold what this staff call a press conference yet Biden doesn’t take any questions from the press. He just says what he wants them to hear and then leaves. So much for all that transparency, we’ve been promised.
Critics are concerned that the Trump administration may wait until December 14 when the electoral college votes or until his legal options are exhausted. Sleepy Joe is determined to make good on his promise to hit the ground running. He needs to show some vitality and reassure he is up to the job of leader of the free world because he usually appears weak and feeble. That is why his transition team is chomping at the bit and pressuring Ms. Murphy to sign the letter authorizing the release of the funds.
Biden’s staff is spitting out tweets fast and furiously as they have been doing. It’s interesting that I’m not seeing Dr. Fauci’s name bantered around in Biden’s coronavirus talking points about his experts.
Today, I have named a COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board, comprised of distinguished public health experts, to help our transition team translate the Biden-Harris COVID-19 plan into a blueprint we can put into place as soon as @KamalaHarris and I are sworn into office.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 9, 2020
My COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board will advise on detailed plans built on a bedrock of science, and that keep compassion, empathy, and care for every American at its core.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 9, 2020
The funding is generous. So are the perks for the transition team.
By declaring the “apparent winner” of a presidential election, the GSA administrator releases computer systems and money for salaries and administrative support for the mammoth undertaking of setting up a new government — $9.9 million this year.
Transition officials get government email addresses. They get office space at every federal agency. They can begin to work with the Office of Government Ethics to process financial disclosure and conflict-of-interest forms for their nominees.
And they get access to senior officials, both political appointees of the outgoing administration and career civil servants, who relay an agency’s ongoing priorities and projects, upcoming deadlines, problem areas and risks. The federal government is a $4.5 trillion operation, and while the Biden team is not new to government, the access is critical, experts said.
Each government agency has developed a plan to work with the Biden transition team, as is routine. Ms. Murphy is in a tough spot right now but this, too, shall pass. She is a seasoned professional who receives good reviews from both sides of the aisle. Biden and many of this team have been in government and politics for decades. I’m sure they’ll survive just fine until the money is available to them.
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