GSA offers to brief Congress next week on presidential transition
The General Services Administration (GSA) is offering to provide a briefing to key congressional committees next week on the presidential transition process in response to a demand by House Democrats, who insisted Monday that the agency move much faster in meeting their request.
The House Oversight and Reform and Appropriations committees sent a letter Thursday to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy demanding a briefing by Monday of this week to explain why she had not signed off on the process, known as ascertainment, to formally recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect and unlock federal resources to begin the transition.
A GSA spokesperson said Monday that the agency’s deputy administrator, Allison Brigati, would provide a 30-minute briefing to the House committee chairs and ranking Republican members on Nov. 30.
The GSA will also provide an in-person briefing that day for staff on the Senate Appropriations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Environment and Public Works committees. The spokesperson added that staff for the House Appropriations and Oversight and Reform committees are invited to attend the Senate briefing.
But House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who chair the relevant subcommittees, blasted the GSA’s offer as insufficient and asked that Murphy brief them on Tuesday.
“We cannot wait yet another week to obtain basic information about your refusal to make the ascertainment determination,” they wrote in a letter to Murphy on Monday. “Every additional day that is wasted is a day that the safety, health, and well-being of the American people is imperiled as the incoming Biden-Harris Administration is blocked from fully preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, our nation’s dire economic crisis, and our national security.”
More than two weeks since the presidential race was called for Biden by The Associated Press and all major news networks, Murphy has yet to begin the transition process. President Trump has refused to concede the election and continues to pursue long-shot legal challenges in states where Biden holds a significant lead.
In last week’s letter, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who chair the relevant subcommittees, wrote that a briefing would “help inform” whether they would call Murphy and other top GSA officials to testify at a public hearing.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated last week that Democrats are starting with requesting a briefing, rather than immediately issuing subpoenas or calling hearings, to maintain a “unifying” post-election environment.
“Let’s take our time. Let’s give them a chance. And that’s why we don’t have a hearing, we’re just having a briefing,” Pelosi said at a press conference in the Capitol on Friday.
But Pelosi also said the House could take on an expanded role if Trump continues to block the transition.
“I’m not one to show my hand, but, nonetheless, we’re ready. We’re ready,” Pelosi said.
Biden has warned that a delay in the transition process could lead to more deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic and make it more difficult to distribute vaccines early next year.
In the absence of access to federal funds for the transition, Biden’s team has been soliciting funds from big and small-dollar donors to help make up the cost.
A growing number of GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate are urging Trump to concede the election and allow the transition to begin, including Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).
Updated at 3:20 p.m.