Emily Murphy, General Services Administration
Emily Murphy, General Services Administration

After weeks of need­less delay, Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Biden and Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Kamala Har­ris have final­ly been rec­og­nized by the fed­er­al Gen­er­al Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion (GSA) as the legit­i­mate vic­tors of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, a des­ig­na­tion that allows the offi­cial tran­si­tion process to begin in earnest, with less than two months to go until Don­ald Trump is out of office.

The Trump appoint­ed GSA Admin­is­tra­tor Emi­ly Mur­phy, who has the author­i­ty to release sev­er­al mil­lion dol­lars in funds to sup­port the tran­si­tion, noti­fied Pres­i­dent-elect Biden of her deci­sion after elec­tion offi­cials in Michi­gan vot­ed to cer­ti­fy the results, and after the Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court turned back anoth­er Trump cam­paign legal chal­lenge to the results in the Key­stone State.

“As the Admin­is­tra­tor of the U.S. Gen­er­al Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion, I have the abil­i­ty under the Pres­i­den­tial Tran­si­tion Act of 1963, as amend­ed, to make cer­tain post-elec­tion resources and ser­vices avail­able to assist in the event of a pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion,” Mur­phy’s let­ter began.

“I take this role seri­ous­ly and because of recent devel­op­ments involv­ing legal chal­lenges and cer­tifi­ca­tions of elec­tion results, am trans­mit­ting this let­ter today to make those resources and ser­vices avail­able to you.”

The rest of the let­ter, except for the clos­ing line, attempts to jus­ti­fy why this deci­sion was not made soon­er, and com­plains that Mur­phy has been the tar­get of “thou­sands of threats” from Amer­i­cans upset by her refusal to do her job.

Emi­ly Mur­phy’s let­ter to Joe Biden

Yohannes Abra­ham, the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Biden-Har­ris Tran­si­tion, wel­comed the deci­sion, char­ac­ter­iz­ing it as very much needed.

“The GSA Admin­is­tra­tor has ascer­tained Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Biden and Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Kamala Har­ris as the appar­ent win­ners of the elec­tion, pro­vid­ing the incom­ing Admin­is­tra­tion with the resources and sup­port nec­es­sary to car­ry out a smooth and peace­ful trans­fer of pow­er,” said Abra­ham in a statement.

“Today’s deci­sion is a need­ed step to begin tack­ling the chal­lenges fac­ing our nation, includ­ing get­ting the pan­dem­ic under con­trol and our econ­o­my back on track. This final deci­sion is a defin­i­tive admin­is­tra­tive action to for­mal­ly begin the tran­si­tion process with fed­er­al agen­cies. In the days ahead, tran­si­tion offi­cials will begin meet­ing with fed­er­al offi­cials to dis­cuss the pan­dem­ic response, have a full account­ing of our nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests, and gain com­plete under­stand­ing of the Trump administration’s efforts to hol­low out gov­ern­ment agencies.”

Pri­or to Mur­phy’s deci­sion, Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray had added her voice to the cho­rus call­ing on the GSA to get a move on and stop dithering.

“Your agency’s mis­sion is to ensure the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has the prod­ucts, ser­vices, and facil­i­ties it needs to serve the pub­lic,” Mur­ray told Murphy.

“Yet, you are choos­ing to put polit­i­cal loy­al­ty ahead of pub­lic health and safe­ty by refus­ing to make a deter­mi­na­tion of ascer­tain­ment to begin a for­mal tran­si­tion of pow­er to the President-elect.”

“By delay­ing the start of the for­mal tran­si­tion, you are imped­ing the abil­i­ty of the incom­ing admin­is­tra­tion to receive access to resources and per­son­nel. Such a delay could ham­per the fed­er­al response to the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, which has already claimed over 250,000 lives,” Mur­ray observed.

“It is com­plete­ly unac­cept­able to delay the crit­i­cal work to save lives, improve edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents, or ensure work­ers are safe and healthy and fam­i­lies are able to make a liv­ing dur­ing this cri­sis,” the Sen­a­tor added.

The Biden-Har­ris tran­si­tion team has so far been oper­at­ing with­out fed­er­al fund­ing and with­out an offi­cial­ly oper­at­ed U.S. gov­ern­ment web­site. With Mur­phy’s deter­mi­na­tion, that is now set to change.

A grow­ing num­ber of Repub­li­can elect­ed offi­cials and busi­ness titans, jus­ti­fi­ably con­cerned that Trump’s refusal to con­cede could impede the trans­fer of pow­er to the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion, had also been call­ing on Mur­phy to rec­og­nize the deci­sion made by the Amer­i­can peo­ple and release the funds need­ed to kick the tran­si­tion into high­er gear. Today, that lob­by­ing paid off.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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