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Biden Launches Transition, Covid Plan as Trump Eyes Court Fight
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Joe Biden is moving forward as the president-elect, launching his transition effort and preparing a plan to curb the coronavirus pandemic while President Donald Trump weighs legal challenges and has so far refused to concede.
Biden will announce his transition’s coronavirus task force on Monday, the first core policy step since being declared the winner of the presidential race on Saturday. He’ll also reach out to Republicans and Democrats in Congress to discuss a new relief package, with one Biden ally calling on Trump to support one before Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.
The former vice president won or is leading in states that would award him 306 electoral college votes, well above the victory threshold of 270. But Trump has falsely claimed victory while alleging widespread illegal voting, without any evidence. White House staff have faced aleadership vacuum in the days since the election.
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Biden nonetheless moved ahead, signaling to the American people and U.S. allies that he plans for a peaceful and smooth transfer of power. He said his mandate is to curb the coronavirus pandemic, rebuild the economy, fight climate change, root out systemic racism, and expand access to health care — and attempt to restore a bipartisan spirit in bitterly divided Washington, where Republicans have largely yet to acknowledge his win.
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Taking steps to highlight the biggest difference between him and Trump, Biden focused almost singularly on the pandemic in his first hours as president-elect.
“Our work begins with getting Covid under control,” Biden said in his victoryspeech on Saturday, before calling on Congress to work together. “If we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate, and I believe that this is part of the mandate given to us from the American people.”
There was little early sign of that, as Republicans largely followed Trump’s lead. On the Sunday political talk shows they called for patience and investigations, though some acknowledged those efforts are unlikely to swing the result. Trump’s camp has pledged a lawsuit in Pennsylvania and a recount in Wisconsin, though whether either will happen is unclear. As of Sunday there was agrowing sense among Trump’s allies that he’d lost, but would still pursue certain legal challenges.
Republican former President George W. Bush signaled to his party that the race was over, issuing a statement saying that he had made congratulatory phone calls to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Bush acknowledged Trump’s right to request recounts and pursue legal challenges, but added, “The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld and its outcome is clear.”
Trump golfed Saturday and Sunday as his campaign continued to hold out for court victories that could turn the result. The president plans to explore all options to ensure legal votes are counted and those that the campaign contends are illegal are not, one person familiar with the situation said, but there’s growing recognition in Trump’s circles that the effort is doomed.
“You have the president sitting in the White House not acknowledging it, and I think there’s lots of Republicans who are trying to feel their way around that,” former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Trump adviser, told ABC’s “This Week.”
Symone Sanders, a senior adviser for Biden’s campaign, said the transition team will focus on preparing plans to move quickly on issues such as police reform and addressing climate change. Biden is also expected toquickly name his White House team, but cabinet positions may come more slowly.
“Joe Biden is going to make good on his promises on the campaign trail,” she told CNN on Sunday. “We have a little over 70 days, so I hope folks give us a moment to pull it together.” Biden has pledged a range of first-day actions once inaugurated, including rejoining the Paris climate accord, reversing Trump’s regulatory cuts, and ending his travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries.
The White House had not yet reached out to Biden, Sanders said. “I think the White House has made clear what their strategy is here and that they are going to continue to participate and push forward these flailing and, in many respects, baseless legal strategies.”
Biden’s coronavirus task force will be co-chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a professor of public health at Yale University, is another co-chair, according to a person familiar with Biden’s plans.
Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a Biden ally, called on Trump to back talks for a new coronavirus relief package during the months before Biden is sworn in. “One way that President Trump can show some graciousness in the next 73 days during the transition is to publicly support a significant pandemic relief bill,” Coons told ABC on Sunday.
He said Biden would reach out to Republicans in Congress. “The only way we’re going to pass a big or bold package -- either in the transition period or in the coming year -- is with bipartisan support,” Coons said.
Much of Biden’s agenda will hinge on a pair of run-off Senate elections in Georgia, a state Biden was leading by 10,000 votes on Sunday but where Republican incumbents outpaced their Senate challengers. Democrats would likely need both seats to reach a tie in the Senate, at which point Harris could break tie votes as vice president. Without that, Republicans are set to stymie Biden.
“I think it will be issue by issue, in terms of whether Republicans will work with Democrats, and vice versa,” Christie said.
“If there is a mandate, the mandate is, ‘We want people to work together,’” Republican Senator Roy Blunt told ABC. GOP Senator Mitt Romney, a frequent Trump critic, told CNN that Republicans would fight for conservative principles, and oppose measures such as the Green New Deal. Romney declined to say who he voted for.