Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies Photo (Government Photo Creative Commons)

A Modest Proposal

A Modern-Day Example of Tilting at a Windmill

Bipartisanship is in short supply in today’s political environment, but it is critically needed now. With former Vice President Biden, based on published voting results, claiming he is President-elect, and President Trump seeking judicial relief to overturn election results there appears to be no room for bipartisanship. However, this is the environment where a compromise is very much needed to put America first.

Mr. Biden’s supporters claim that for success President Trump must climb an insurmountable legal cliff while the President’s supporters believe the legal challenges are manageable and must be pursued. Let us not lay odds as to which side prevails, however we know that one side will prevail by December 14th when electoral college members meet in their respective states and vote.

Let us further stipulate that a new administration taking the reins of power is a complicated process, requiring much preparation, necessitating beginning the process long before the 14th. Based on the recent transitions of Obama and Trump, in the neighborhood of four to five dozen federal agencies will likely be reviewed by Biden’s transition team, including 300–400 personnel. The purpose of a transition team is ensuring the smooth operation of the government and maintenance of national security.

In a recent Washington Post editorial Andy Card and John Podesta wrote of the importance of a timely and smooth transition. Card was George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff and Podesta filled the same position for Bill Clinton. They wrote, “When the 9/11 Commission finished its report, it…concluded that avoiding future disruptions in transitions was deeply in the national interest.” They went on to write, “the 9/11 Commission…found that the delayed transition ‘hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees’” particularly in the national security arena.

Of course, the delayed transition the 9/11 Commission referenced resulted because of the Gore/Bush 2000 Supreme-Court-decided election. Card and Podesta argue that today’s situation is nothing like the impasse of the 2000 election. In that election, Florida was the only contested state remaining as the votes were being counted and only 537 votes separated Bush and Gore in that state. Today, numerous swing states and tens of thousands of votes stand in the way of President Trump being successful in his challenge.

Of course, a legal procedure is in place for easing the transition. It grants the President-elect’s transition team access to the government bureaucracy and provides clerical and financial resources to complete the task. In all, the government’s cost is estimated to be about $10 million. Emily Murphy, head of the government’s General Services Administration, is, by law, responsible for signing off on starting the process. As of now she has not signed the necessary paperwork, and the Trump Administration is not cooperating because the paperwork has not been signed. Meanwhile, the clock ensuring a smooth transition if, as appears likely, Biden does become President is still ticking.

A reasonable compromise is granting Biden’s transition team access to the process with Mr. Biden and President Trump signing an agreement that the action is not partisan and does not suggest which side will ultimately prevail. In addition, Biden’s campaign could commit up to $10 million to be provided to the government if his victory is not upheld. Congress could amend the existing law to allow this now and into the future. The result would be a nonpartisan solution requiring very few if any public resources while allowing a smooth transition when the need materializes, putting America first in the process.