Transition of Power
One of the most wonderful, unique and inspiring aspects of being an American citizen is watching the peaceful transition of power from one elected president to another. Former President Obama was recently quoted as saying that presidents are “temporary residents of a public office”. While the 2020 presidential election is tied up in legal action and vote recounts brought on by the Trump administration there is a general consensus that Biden has won the election. As a result, many are left wondering what now? How does the transition of power actually get facilitated and what do potential delays signify?
How Do Presidential Transitions Work?
Beyond the obvious “leader of the free world” business, presidential transitions allow for the passing of control of governmental agencies, personnel, monetary funds, and national security interests. When examining this issue, it is easiest to think of the United States as a fortune 500 company… but much larger. There are millions of employees, over 100 different agencies and billions of dollars at stake. Thankfully there is a congressional provision that dictates how a presidential transition from president to president-elect should go. The PTA reads as follows,
“In general, presidential transition activities under the PTA are coordinated by GSA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). To receive services and funds under the act, eligible candidates, Presidents-elect, and Vice Presidents-elect are required to adhere to certain transition-related contribution limits and disclosure requirements. Other provisions of the PTA provide for expedited security clearance processes for transition team members and the incoming President’s top appointees” (PTA 2020).
This includes funding for transition activities, staffing and infrastructure. The issue we face today is that President Trump has not formally conceded the election. There are multiple vote recounts and legal actions through lawsuits being sought by the Trump administration in hopes of overturning the election decision. Fortunately, congress had encountered this exact situation in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. The provision from the Presidential Transition Act (PTA) of 1963 was amended in 2008-2009 and acts as a guide. It reads, “In a close contest, the Administrator simply would not make the decision (to release funds).” Essentially, if a clear president-elect cannot be determined, the transition funding and actions will simply be delayed until one can be identified.
The PTA provides millions of dollars for both the presidential-elect, sitting president and General Service Administration (GSA) with which to perform their duties. “The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (PTA) authorizes funding for the General Services Administration (GSA) to provide suitable office space, staff compensation, and other services associated with the presidential transition process” (3 U.S.C. §102 note). This funding is integral to continuing the operations of both the transition teams from the incoming and outgoing president. Biden has elected to raise some funds privately at this time to help fund his transition office however the federal money is what will provide the bulk of the capital needed for the process.
Information is Key
In addition to funding, top-secret briefs are also being withheld from both President-elect Biden and his staff. These Briefings would normally include national security, economic and COVID-19 related information. Without authorization to conduct these briefings many of the 100 organizations under federal control will not be able to provide Biden with the necessary background information he will need to make big decisions on day 1 of his presidency. It is largely seen as tradition and professional courtesy to welcome the president-elect and first lady to the white house for a meeting where the outgoing president can discuss and brief the president-elect on current issues facing the nation. However, while president Trump continues to refuse to acknowledge Biden as the winner of this election these transition norms seem less and less likely to happen.
The state of Georgia has just certified their vote recount in Biden’s favor. Many in the media and democratic party see this as the last step in solidifying Biden’s legitimacy as president-elect. They are making calls for the transition process to start however, President Trump has vowed to keep fighting the election results and has not made efforts to contact the Biden campaign and staff in order to set up logistical support for a presidential transition.
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Ben Velardi, Author/Founder