WASHINGTON — The course of President-elect Joe Biden's transition to power is dependent in part on an obscure declaration called “ascertainment.”
The formal presidential transition doesn’t begin until the administrator of the federal General Services Administration ascertains the “apparent successful candidate” in the general election.
Neither the Presidential Transition Act nor federal regulations specify how that determination should be made.
That decision greenlights the entire federal government’s moves toward preparing for a handover of power. It includes millions of dollars in funding for the new team, office space, and makes administration officials available.
The administrator of the GSA, Emily Murphy, was appointed by President Donald Trump. She has not given any indication on when she would start the process.
The General Services Administration is a government agency that is in charge of federal buildings.
The GSA’s leadership is supposed to act independently and in a nonpartisan manner, and at least some elements of the federal government already have begun implementing transition plans.
Aviation officials, for instance, have restricted the airspace over Biden’s lakefront home in Wilmington, Delaware, while the Secret Service has begun using agents from its presidential protective detail for the president-elect and his family.
The most notable transition delay in modern history was in 2000, between outgoing President Bill Clinton and incoming President George W. Bush. The Supreme Court didn't decided a recount dispute between Al Gore and Bush until December.