WASHINGTON — Even though President Donald Trump refuses to concede the election, projected winner Joe Biden has started to prepare for his anticipated first day in office.
Monday, he announced his coronavirus task force and shared details on his top four, day one priorities: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change.
As promised throughout his campaign, Biden plans to get the virus under control first. Though, it could impact how he's sworn in on Inauguration Day.
The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) is already working to get the Capitol ready for the 59th Presidential Inauguration — but they're preparing contingency plans in case they need to scale back.
Paige Waltz, the spokesperson for JCCIC, shared this statement with WUSA9 Monday:
“The JCCIC is committed to traditional, safe, and inclusive ceremonies and will continue to monitor the situation and provide information as it comes available. Due to the ever-changing circumstances surrounding the pandemic, preparations for the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies are moving forward in line with tradition under the rationale that it is more feasible to scale down the plans than it is to scale up.”
Dr. Tenpas believes that Biden will air on the side of caution and not hold an event that places people in close contact to each other during the pandemic.
Dr. Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a Senior Fellow at UVA's The Miller Center, said amid all the uncertainty the pandemic brings, Biden at least brings with him eight years and experience as the vice president and years more serving on the Senate.
"That kind of experience you can’t put a price on it, it is absolutely invaluable at this stage," she said.
The Miller Center is a nonpartisan UVA affiliate that specializes in presidential scholarship and public policy, and Dr. Tenpas has published more than 50 articles and papers on the intersection of politics and policy within the presidency.
Dr. Tenpas is also part of a nonpartisan nonprofit called the White House Transition Project, which essentially gives the new administration descriptions of how the office has typically run, so they're not starting blind.
When it comes to Biden, she believes personnel will be his top transition priority, followed by government structure and legislative actions, as well as executive orders that will roll back Trump-era orders.
But, she says Biden is also in a tough position when it comes to staffing choices, because of the close Senate races in Georgia. Those seats will determine whether or not Republicans will win the majority in the Senate and she says will consequently influence who Biden picks as his department heads.
“It’s important to start out on a good note, so you don’t want to be nominating people who are going to be divisive and difficult to get through the Senate," Dr. Tenpas said. "You want to make it as smooth a process as possible. It’s very important to get these people in early, and you just don’t want to create any controversies.”
She believes that Biden will pick more centrist staff members in the hopes of bipartisan actions in the next four years, especially if Republicans retain a majority.
Dr. Tenpas said the projected President-elect's transition team faces another roadblock: The federal agency that controls transition resources for the incoming president, the General Services Administration, has yet to declare Biden the winner.
Until the Trump-appointed administrator does so, it denies Biden's team access to crucial funds and opportunities to work with top agencies, like the FBI, to prepare his team for 2021.
“Every day that they’re not being able to fully engage in the transition is a day lost ... It puts us in a very vulnerable position," she said. "So I think everybody needs to step back and think of the country at large and the importance of having a new administration in place and ready to go and not be behind from day one.”
She anticipates Americans also keep an eye on diversity within Biden's cabinet appointments since he promised to build a team that reflects America.