Look At This Shiny Normal Thing! Biden's Transition Team ... Doing Transition Stuff!
Faced with the loss of power, Donald Trump and his Team Of Clownass Idiots are certainly putting up a big show of vowing they'll never be driven from the White House, no never. As the linked piece by Evan notes, that's probably more show than reality, just part of the Asshole Stages of Grief. The administration is definitely throwing some sand in the gears of the transition process, though, what with the director of the General Services Administration refusing to "ascertain" there's been a winner in last week's election. That has so far blocked the Biden transition team from getting access to people and data across a wide range of government departments that will be needed to get the new administration up and running on January 20.
Fortunately, as NBC News details, the Biden transition folks know how transitions work, so while the current tenants keep saying they aren't going anywhere, much of the planning is going ahead anyway, even if the Biden team doesn't have .gov email addresses yet. (And have no doubt that after a four year hiatus, the GOP crew will have a screaming mimi about "government work done on private email accounts.") As far as we can tell, Biden's incoming administration is already more ready to run the US government than Team Trump was after the inauguration in 2017 — or any point since. Sure, the obstructionism on Trump's part is bad and stupid and potentially dangerous in its implications for the pandemic and national security. On the upside, the transition team baked Trump-inflicted chaos into its planning cake, because Biden's people have been paying attention for four years like the rest of us.
Get ready to breathe a little easier.
For starters, it helps that the leader of Biden's transition team, Ted Kaufman, knows this stuff inside and out. He served as Joe Biden's chief of staff when Biden was in the Senate, and managed Biden's own vice-presidential transition in 2008, which made him something of a wonk when it came to improving the transition process. As a senator himself, Kaufman literally wrote the 2010 "Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act," which set up much of the machinery of modern presidential transitions, and even after leaving the Senate, he helped co-write a 2016 sequel to that law. All told, he's worked on four transitions.
And unlike Trump's initial transition manager, Chris Christie, Kaufman doesn't have to worry all his work will end up tossed in a dumpster, unread.
Kaufman tells NBC News he isn't worried about hiring talent for the new administration, because nobody has to worry that "served under Joe Biden" will be a red flag on their job history.
The quality of people that want to come to work for Joe Biden is extraordinary. [...] It's not just that people know him, but they know the people who will work for him. […] The good attracts the good.
The transition team currently consists of about 100 people; that's expected to be as many as 350 by Inauguration Day. And while the team will need the access to departmental staff and data to really get things in place — contacts and information the Trump administration is blocking for now — the work of filling positions is already underway. NBC News reports the team has
already identified 4,300 prospective appointees for the 4,000 federal jobs it must ultimately fill, putting a premium on those with responsibility for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, and others that don't require Senate confirmation.
The transition is also departing from the typical approach to filling staff positions, starting out by making sure they've vetted people to fill several key agencies even before the Cabinet-level appointments are made, instead of the "waterfall" model that starts out by picking Cabinet appointees and then filling up the rest of the org chart. That way, even if the Senate tries to slow confirmations, there'll be a team in place when the leadership arrives.
The limits on in-person meetings imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have meant that much of the team's work has been done online, which for now may mean the transition won't be too badly hindered by the restricted office space available to it. By law, following the nominating conventions, the transition team has 10,000 square feet of space in the Department of Commerce. Once the GSA admits Biden won the election, that would normally open up enough room for a staff of up to 1,000, though under current circumstances, that much space might not be needed.
Trump's own notoriously mismanaged transition was run out of Trump Tower, and isn't it nice that we won't need to read any shocking exposés about how much money the government is paying Joe Biden to rent space in the Biden Building?
It looks likely that team Trump may slowly be moving toward recognizing reality, which should result in the GSA handing over keys and access to the government to the transition team. The worst-case scenario might mean the GSA won't move until the election is certified on December 14, but that strikes us as unlikely.
For all the bluster, the parts of the government that are required by law to cooperate with the transition have been doing so, say Biden officials, so that's encouraging. And while the GSA is blocking contacts between the transition team and agency staff beyond that, the career officials have been doing what they're required to, preparing briefing books and collecting the information the new administration will need. Once the bullshit is unblocked, both the Biden transition team and the career staffers are going to be primed to work together smoothly.
And the Trump administration will leave the way it came in: uninterested in anything the outgoing Obama administration had to say, and uninterested in helping the Biden administration serve the American people. Good riddance.
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