A key group of House Democrats on Monday rejected a proposal by the General Services Administration to have its deputy administrator, Allison Brigati, brief lawmakers and staffers next week on the delay in the presidential transition.
In a letter Monday afternoon, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (N.Y.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.) and two subcommittee chairmen, Reps. Mike Quigley (Ill.) and Gerald E. Connolly (Va.), called for the briefing to be held by Emily Murphy, the head of the GSA, on Tuesday, rather than by Murphy’s deputy next week.
“We cannot wait yet another week to obtain basic information about your refusal to make the ascertainment determination,” the Democrats wrote. “Every additional day that is wasted is a day that the safety, health, and well-being of the American people is imperiled as the incoming Biden-Harris Administration is blocked from fully preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, our nation’s dire economic crisis, and our national security.”
The move is the latest effort by House Democrats to press Murphy to brief them on why she has declined to certify Biden as the “apparent” winner of the presidential race. Such a designation is necessary for Biden to receive government funds and other resources typically afforded to the president-elect to ensure a smooth transition.
Meanwhile, Murphy ordered the agency’s Washington headquarters at 1800 F St. NW to close on Monday in anticipation of a protest of her decision not to declare Biden the winner of the election.
The protest, held at noon by a group called RefuseFascism.org, which has opposed Trump and his administration, was small and nonviolent. At most, 15 activists arrived at the headquarters entrance and tried to enter through the revolving doors to speak with Murphy but were blocked by security guards, said Sunsara Taylor, one of the organizers.
The group came with body bags to represent the loss of life during the coronavirus pandemic and stuck bags in the revolving door, which was not moving. The delayed transition is blocking Biden from implementing a plan to fight the virus, Taylor said.
Last week, House Democrats summoned Murphy, a Trump appointee, to brief them privately and threatened to bring her, her deputy, her chief of staff and her general counsel before Congress to testify at a public hearing.
“We have been extremely patient, but we can wait no longer,” Maloney and Lowey wrote last week.
The GSA also said it would host an in-person-only briefing the same day for staffers of three Senate committees — Appropriations; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Environment and Public Works — as well as for staffers of the Appropriations and Oversight committees.
But the Democrats fired back that the arrangement would be unacceptable. “In the spirit of accommodation, we are willing to host this briefing tomorrow at a time that is convenient for you,” they wrote Monday in their letter to Murphy, listing several possible times and requesting a response by 5 p.m.
A GSA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Two other Democrats — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) and Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions — also sent letters Monday urging Murphy to allow the transition to begin.
In her letter, Murray wrote that Murphy is “choosing to put political loyalty ahead of public health and safety by refusing to make a determination of ascertainment to begin a formal transition of power to the President-elect.”
Schiff wrote that Murphy bears “enormous responsibility for the harmful effects that will flow from your inaction.”