The Biden-Harris transition team is considering pursuing legal action if the head of the federal agency overseeing the mechanics of a transfer of power doesn’t move in the coming days to free up funding and access to agencies.
“We believe that the time has come for the GSA administrator to promptly ascertain Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president-elect and vice president-elect,” an unidentified Biden-Harris transition official said Monday night on a telephone briefing with reporters.
When asked if the transition team would possibly consider legal action to hasten the mechanics of the transition, the official replied: “There are a number of options on the table, legal action is certainly a possibility, but there are other options as well that we’re considering.”
CBS News and several other news outlets were not invited to participate in the call, but a separate transition official confirmed the quotes.
The General Services Administration (GSA) is responsible for overseeing a presidential transition, including access to Washington office space for the victorious candidate as well as easy access to all federal agencies so that “review teams” hired by the winning candidate can begin visiting agencies to meet with career officials and determine what potential policy changes need to be made.
The Biden-Harris transition office has been operational since late summer in accordance with federal laws dictating how a smooth and peaceful transition of power should occur.
By law, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, a Trump administration appointee, holds an important though rarely discussed role: It’s up to her to sign the paperwork handing over millions of dollars and access to office space and equipment to begin the latter stages of the transition.
In essence, it serves as the federal government’s formal acknowledgement of a winner in the presidential race.
But so far, Murphy isn’t budging.
On Sunday, the agency said her position hasn’t changed and that she cannot yet ascertain the winner of the presidential race.
Previously, the agency said Murphy “ascertains the apparent successful candidate once a winner is clear based on the process laid out in the Constitution.” It added that so far the agency “has met all statutory requirements under the [Presidential Transition Act] for this election cycle and will continue to do so.”
Aides of President-elect Biden expressed frustration Monday that the president has refused to concede and is thus holding up the transition. They noted that the rare delay in beginning the next steps of the transition means the Biden team is unable to access classified information for national security appointees; begin background checks for top government appointees; work with the State Department to help facilitate calls from foreign leaders expressing congratulations; and access to secure facilities.
Aides also noted Monday that it means Mr. Biden and his aides can’t yet learn the full details of Operation Warp Speed, the Pentagon’s complex plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
Bo Erickson and Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.