Biden seeks swift action in building his administration

WILMINGTON, Del. –President-elect Joe Biden signaled on Sunday that he plans to act quickly to strengthen his government, focusing first on the raging pandemic that will likely dominate the early days of his administration.

Biden has appointed former surgeon general Dr Vivek Murthy and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler as co-chairs of a coronavirus task force set to start, more members to be announced on Monday .

Transition team officials said this week, Biden will also launch his Agency Review Teams, the group of transition staff who have access to key agencies in the current administration to facilitate the transfer of power. . The teams will collect and review information such as budget and staffing decisions, pending regulations and other work in progress from current staff in departments to help the Biden team prepare for the transition. White House officials declined to know if they would cooperate with Biden’s team during the review.

“People want the country to move forward,” said Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Biden, in an interview on “Meet the press and see Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris” have the opportunity to get the job done, to get the virus under control and to get our economy back on its feet. “

It is not yet known whether President Donald Trump and his administration will cooperate. He has yet to acknowledge Biden’s victory and has vowed to take legal action in several closely contested states that decided the race.

Biden adviser Jen Psaki urged Trump-appointed General Service Administration chief to quickly recognize Biden as president-elect, freeing up money for the transition and paving the way for Biden’s team to begin to set up the process of transition to agencies.

“America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government making a clear and timely signal that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power.” , Psaki said in a Twitter post.

A GSA official said on Sunday that the step had not yet been taken.

A bipartisan group of administrative officials from the Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations on Sunday called on the Trump administration to move forward “to immediately begin the post-election transition process.”

“It was a fierce campaign, but history is replete with examples of presidents who came out of such campaigns to graciously aid their successors,” advisory board members of the Center for Presidential Transition said in a statement.

The statement was signed by Bush White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt, as well as then Bill Clinton Chief of Staff Thomas “Mack” McLarty. and Obama’s Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

Biden’s aides said the president-elect and the transition team had been in contact with Republican lawmakers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of Trump’s closest allies, opened a Cabinet meeting on Sunday by congratulating Biden, a former vice president and longtime senator.

“I have had a long and warm personal relationship with Joe Biden for almost 40 years, and I know him as a great friend of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “I am sure we will continue to work with both to further strengthen the special alliance between Israel and the United States”

George W. Bush, the only living former Republican president, also wished Biden good luck.

“Although we have political differences, I know Joe Biden is a good man, who has earned his opportunity to lead and unify our country,” said Bush.

Biden will face key staffing decisions in the days to come. The still frenzied 10-week transition period before nomination day on January 20 has already been shortened by the extra time it took to determine the winner of Tuesday’s election.

The second Catholic to be elected president, Biden began his first full day as president-elect by attending St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church near his home in Wilmington, as he does almost every week. After the service, he visited the church cemetery where several family members were buried, including his late son, Beau.

Beau Biden, a former Delaware attorney general, died in 2015 of cancer. Before his death, he had encouraged his father to run a third run for the White House.

Joe Biden said in a victory speech on Saturday that he would announce a task force of scientists and experts on Monday to develop a “plan” to begin combating the virus when he assumes the presidency. He said his plan would be “built on basic science” and “built on compassion, empathy and concern.”

Murthy, who had advised Biden during the campaign, was appointed to a four-year term as surgeon general in 2014 by President Barack Obama. Murthy was asked to step down by Trump months after the Republican started in office. Kessler was appointed Commissioner of the FDA by President George HW Bush and served in that position during President Bill Clinton’s first term in the White House.

Biden’s senior adviser Ted Kaufman said the transition team will focus on the “nuts and bolts” of building the new administration in the coming days.

Biden may not make the best Cabinet choices for weeks. But he built his presidential race around bipartisanship, and he has spent the days since Tuesday’s election pledging to be a president for all Americans. This suggests he might be ready to appoint Republicans to high-level administrative positions.

Many former Republican officials have broken with Trump to endorse Biden’s campaign. Biden’s selection of some of them to join the new government could appease Senate Republicans, who may have to confirm many of Biden’s choices for top positions. The GOP could retain control of the chamber after two special elections in Georgia on January 5.

Yet too much cross-cutting cooperation could attract the wrath of progressives. Some are already concerned that uncooperative Senate Republicans will force Biden to cut back on his ambitious campaign pledges to expand access to health care and lead a post-pandemic economic recovery that hinges on federal investment in green technology and jobs to help fight climate change.

“I think there will be a huge abuse of the word ‘unity’ to imply that we have to dilute the ideas Joe Biden just campaigned on,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Campaign for Progressive Change committee. . He said the country was more united around bold solutions to big problems than small-scale efforts.

Biden’s efforts for bipartisan reconciliation could be further undermined by Trump’s refusal to concede the race.

Symone Sanders, a senior Biden campaign adviser, said while several Republican lawmakers have been in contact with the president-elect in recent days, the campaign has yet to hear from White House officials.

“I think the White House has made it clear what their strategy is here and that they are going to continue to participate and advance these flawed and in many ways groundless legal strategies,” Sanders said on “State of the “from CNN. Union.”

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Trump has the right to pursue recounts and court challenges. But he noted that these efforts are unlikely to change the outcome and urged the president to reverse his rhetoric.

“I think you have to be careful in the choice of words. I think when you say that the elections were corrupted, stolen or rigged, it is unfortunately rhetoric that is echoed by authoritarians around the world. And I think that also discourages confidence in our democratic process here at home, ”Romney said on NBC.

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