Nov 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden transition threatens legal action on GSA decision

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy
GSA Administrator Emily Murphy. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Joe Biden's transition team is warning that it may take "legal action" if the General Services Administration fails to make an official determination that Biden has won the election.

Driving the news: GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, a Trump political appointee, has not made the declaration — a so-called "ascertainment" — that would allow officials from Biden’s agency review teams access to the information they need in order to get to work.

  • "There's a number of levers on the table and all options are certainly available," a Biden transition official told reporters.
  • "It's a changing situation and certainly rather fluid."

The big picture: The Presidential Transition Act governs how the outgoing administration is required to cooperate with the incoming one, smoothing the way for a peaceful transfer for power.

  • Most official GSA ascertainments have been made within 24 hours of the election, with the exception of the 2000 contest, when the outcome in Florida was down to some 500 votes, the officials said.

Why it matters: Absent a GSA declaration, the incoming administration doesn’t have access to agencies to look at the non-public books, slowing their ability to change policy direction. They also don’t have access to:

  • Office space, computers and mobile phones.
  • The $6.3 million in appropriated funds.
  • Classified information or secured facilities to review it.
  • The ability to request security clearances or background checks for potential cabinet nominees.
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