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We need a (common) ‘sense of the Senate’ resolution on transition planning

The presidential election of 2020 has not been all that close. Former Vice President Joe Biden will receive well over 5 million more votes throughout the nation than President Trump. All reputable and independent organizations have projected Biden as the winner of more than 270 electoral votes. If he carries Arizona and Georgia, where he maintains small but probably recount-proof leads, Biden’s total in the Electoral College will reach 306, the exact number President Trump boasted about in 2016.

Nonetheless, President Trump has undermined the legitimacy of our elections by raising baseless charges of fraud, refusing to concede, launching lawsuits that are virtually certain to fail, and blocking President-elect Biden from beginning transition planning.

Although the outcome is sufficiently clear (80 percent of Americans and more than 50 percent of Republicans believe that Biden has won), last week Emily Murphy, administrator of the General Services Administration, refused to issue a letter of “ascertainment,” allowing Biden’s team to move into government offices, meet with Trump administration officials, receive classified briefings, and begin background checks on Cabinet nominees.

This delay is unwarranted, wrong and dangerous.

Although the fall/winter season has only just begun, the Coronavirus is raging, with 120,000 new cases each day; more than 65,000 Americans have been hospitalized, and fatalities are rising sharply. A vaccine may soon be on the way, requiring one of the most massive and challenging distribution efforts in American history. Coordination is imperative — and a seamless handoff from the Trump COVID Task Force to the Biden administration could save tens of thousands of lives and aid the economic recovery.

It’s time for Republicans — especially members of the United States Senate — to stand up, speak out, and do something.

A “Sense of the Senate” resolution on transition planning is an appropriate way for them to send a message to the White House — and to apprehensive Americans throughout the country. Although such a resolution is non-binding, it would be aimed at one person — and he will get the message.

The evidence is mounting that Senate Republicans know it is the right thing to do. Four of them — Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) — broke with Trump to congratulate Biden on his victory. It is in our national interest, Romney declared, that Biden’s transition team “be given all access as quickly as possible.” Rounds indicated that Trump and Biden “should be able to work out any issues between them to allow certain parts of [the transition] to move forward.”

The outcome of the election “isn’t 100 percent certain, but it is likely,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), “so I think a transition process ought to begin.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) gave voice to what should be obvious: “I don’t think allowing the General Services Administration to move forward,” Rubio said, “prejudices in any way any of the legal claims the president intends to make.”

The views of these senators are almost certainly shared by more of their colleagues on the red side of the aisle. According to Chris Coons (D-Del.), a number of Republican senators have asked him to congratulate Biden, apologizing that “I can’t say that publicly yet.”

On Wednesday, James Lankford (R-Utah) indicated that if Biden’s transition team was not receiving national security briefings by Friday, he would step in. And on Thursday, several more GOP senators — including Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — recommended that classified briefings and/or full transition planning begin immediately.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who relishes his reputation as “The Grim Reaper,” will, no doubt, be less than enthusiastic about bringing a “Sense of the Senate” resolution on transition planning to the floor — but he knows that Donald Trump will soon be an ex-president. McConnell understands that this farce is not likely to last much longer.

And so, he may soon be willing to give the soon-to-be former president a shove — not necessarily because it’s the right thing to do, but because Trump’s antics are beginning to give Republican enablers a bad name.

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of “Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.”

Tags Arizona Background checks Ben Sasse Biden transition Chris Coons court challenge Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump presidential campaign General Services Administration Georgia James Lankford Joe Biden John Thune Kevin Cramer Marco Rubio Mike Rounds Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Pat Toomey Peaceful transition President's Daily Brief Republican Party Rob Portman Senate Resolution Susan Collins

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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