Democrats send letter to GSA head Emily Murphy demanding to know why the Biden-Harris transition has not begun

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President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at the Alexis Dupont High School on August 12 in Wilmington, Delaware. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Democratic leaders of the House oversight committee are demanding to know why President-elect Joe Biden has not been recognised as the next US head of state by the government agency responsible for facilitating the transition.
  • In a letter sent Thursday, Democrats ask Emily Murphy, the head of the agency, the General Services Administration, to personally explain her rationale.
  • “We have been extremely patient, but we can wait no longer,” the lawmakers wrote.
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Democratic leaders are demanding to know why President-elect Joe Biden has not been recognised as the next US head of state by the government agency responsible for facilitating the transition.

Under the Presidential Transition Act, the General Services Administration is supposed to provide office space and equipment to assist “the apparent successful candidates for the office of President and Vice President.”

But GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, an appointee of President Donald Trump, has declined to call the race, delaying important aspects of the presidential transition and, Democrats argue, jeopardizing the next administration’s ability to immediately tackle the numerous crises it will inherit such as the coronavirus pandemic.

In a Thursday letter to Murphy, leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform wrote that “there is no conceivable argument” that the winner of the 2020 election was not yet apparent.

“President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have clearly satisfied any good faith reading of this standard,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote. “We have been extremely patient, but we can wait no longer.”

Earlier Thursday, citing people who have spoken with her recently, CNN reported that Murphy was struggling with the decision.

“She absolutely feels like she’s in a hard place,” one friend told CNN. “She’s afraid on multiple levels. It’s a terrible situation.”

In their letter, House Democrats asked Murphy to personally brief them on why she had yet to make a decision and to clarify whether she had been pressured to stall by the Trump administration.

It has been 20 years since a presidential transition was delayed. Back then, Al Gore and George W. Bush were locked in an intense legal battle in Florida, with the victor set to move into the White House.

“In this unprecedented, incredibly close, and intensely contested election, with legal action being pursued by both sides, it is not apparent to me who the winner is,” then-GSA Administrator David J. Barram told Congress on December 7, 2000. The transition only began days later, after the US Supreme Court stepped in and stopped a recount, handing the presidency to the Republican nominee.

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General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy has refused to designate an ‘apparent’ winner of the 2020 election. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Per CNN, Murphy sees 2000 as a precedent. But there are major differences, Democrats note. For one, Biden and Harris’ victory does not hinge on the results of one state. The Democratic ticket has a 306-232 lead in the Electoral College, a margin the Trump campaign deemed a “landslide” in 2016; Biden and Harris also enjoy a lead in the popular vote of nearly 6 million.

“Unlike the dispute after the 2000 election in Bush v. Gore, there is no legitimate path forward for President Trump — regardless of how many baseless lawsuits he files or his irrelevant refusal to concede,” the lawmakers wrote.

The GSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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