The Biden-Harris transition team is continuing to fundraise to support planning as it awaits its General Services Administration’s certification, which gives President-elect Joe Biden and his team the power to make decisions about the federal government.
The Biden transition has been in limbo, awaiting the GSA’s “ascertainment” decision — the formal declaration set up by the 1963 Presidential Transition Act. Until that ascertainment is made, the Biden team cannot formally begin the transition process. The delay is costing the Biden team access to more than $6 million in federal funding, security clearances and the ability to meet with officials at intelligence agencies.
A Biden transition official told Fox News Thursday that the Biden-Harris transition “has been planning for months for all possible scenarios.”
“While we wait for the GSA Administrator to uphold the will of the people and be a proper steward of taxpayer resources, we will execute on contingency plans, including continuing to solicit private funds to support transition planning,” the official said in a statement. “The nation faces too many challenges to not have a fully funded and smooth transition to prepare the President-elect and Vice President-elect to govern on Day One.”
Politico on Thursday reported that the Biden transition has raised more than $8 million and could increase its goal in anticipation of the GSA delay. The funding would help cover costs associated with the transition, including paying staffers.
The GSA, though, has defended its precedent, which it said was “established by the Clinton Administration in 2000.”
A GSA spokesperson told Fox News earlier this month that an ascertainment has not yet been made and that the GSA and its administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law.
“In accordance with the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (PTA), as amended, the GSA Administrator ascertains the apparent successful candidate once a winner is clear based on the process laid out in the Constitution,” the spokesperson said. “The Administrator’s ascertainment is done for the purposes of making services provided by the PTA available.”
The spokesperson added: “Until an ascertainment is made, the statute allows for the Biden Transition Team to continue to receive the pre-elect services from the government (e.g., limited office space, computers, background investigations for security clearances). GSA has met all statutory requirements under the PTA for this election cycle and will continue to do so.”
Delaying ascertainment can be a threat to national security, a Biden official said. In 2000, the delayed transition to the Bush administration reportedly put the country at greater risk leading up to 9/11.
According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the transfer hold up hindered Bush’s ability to appoint key officials, including national security personnel.
But despite the delay, the Biden transition is “moving forward with preparations that President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President–elect Kamala Harris are ready to lead our country on Day One and meet the pressing challenges facing our nation.”
“Now that the outcome of the election is clear, the GSA administrator should move quickly to ascertain the results and send a clear signal that she will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” a Biden transition spokesperson told Fox News.
A Biden transition official, though, told Fox News that several options are on the table to move forward with Biden’s transition if the GSA continues to withhold certification.
The official said not recognizing Biden’s transition team also denies access to the State Department – which facilitates calls between foreign leaders – as well as funds for salaries and classified information.
Weeks after Election Day and days after Biden was projected as the winner of the 2020 presidential election, President Trump has not conceded, challenging the results via recounts and legal action alleging foul play.
Legally, however, there is no requirement for a president to concede. The post-election transition process begins once the GSA ascertains the winner of the election, and transition preparations already began well before the election.
The Presidential Transition Act of 2000, the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010 and the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019 provide for much of the process, which essentially begins months before the election.
The current administration establishes a White House Transition Coordinating Council as well as an Agency Transition Directors Council and selects a Federal Transition Coordinator through the GSA. This was all done earlier this year, according to a May 2020 GSA report on transition activities.
Additionally, the report said the GSA was securing and furnishing office space for the Biden transition team for September.
As part of this process, federal agencies must submit succession plans to prepare for a change in administrations.
In August, the GSA sent subsequent transition reports to the House Oversight and Homeland Securities committees.
Meanwhile, the Biden-Harris transition team submitted a transition team ethics plan, which it was required to do by Oct. 1.