The chairs of the House Appropriations and Oversight and Reform committees are seeking a personal briefing by Monday, Nov. 23, from General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Emily Murphy on why GSA has yet to arrive at a judgement that Joe Biden is the apparent winner of the presidential election, a delay that has prevented Biden from receiving Federal government assistance necessary for his transition team to prepare for taking office in January 2021.

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 vests in the GSA administrator the responsibility of ascertaining the “apparent successful candidates” for the offices of President and Vice President, for the purposes of granting the winners Federal funding, office facilities, and access to government agencies to conduct transition activities.

GSA’s Murphy thus far has not rendered the ascertainment of apparent victory of Joe Biden as President and Sen. Kamala Harris as Vice President. While not all states have yet completed official confirmations of vote totals from the Nov. 3 election, the vote tallies reported thus far indicate a 306-232 Electoral College vote lead for the Biden-Harris ticket. President Trump’s legal team continues to challenge vote totals in some states based on allegations of voting improprieties.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, requested in a Nov. 19 letter that Murphy “brief us immediately on your ongoing refusal to grant the Biden-Harris Transition team access to critical services and facilities” specified in the Federal law.

The committee chairs – joined in the letter by House Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee Chairman Mike Quigley, D-Ill. – said the results of the requested briefing by Murphy “will help inform” whether the members of Congress demand that Murphy and other senior GSA official testify about the matter at a public hearing.  The requested briefing would include ranking Republican members of the two House committees and subcommittees.

The House Democrats asserted that Biden and Harris “have clearly satisfied any good faith reading” of the standard under the law to receive Federal government cooperation for their transition efforts. “At this stage, there is no conceivable argument that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are not ‘the apparent successful candidates for the office of President and Vice President,’” they asserted.

“Your actions in blocking transition activities required under the law are having grave effects, including undermining the orderly transfer of power, impairing the incoming Administration’s ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, hampering its ability to address our nation’s dire economic crisis, and endangering our national security,” the members of Congress said in their letter to Murphy.

“We have been extremely patient, but we can wait no longer,” they said. “As GSA Administrator, it is your responsibility to follow the law and assure the safety and well-being of the United States and its people – not to submit to political pressure to violate the law and risk the consequences.”

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MeriTalk Staff