A day after clinching the United States presidency, Democrat Joe Biden and his advisers were working on Sunday on how to address the nation’s coronavirus crisis while reinforcing Biden’s intention to bridge America’s gaping political divisions.
Republican Donald Trump, the first incumbent US president to lose a re-election bid in 28 years, gave no sign of conceding as his campaign pressed ahead with legal fights against the outcome.
Illustrating the uphill battle Biden faces after taking office on January 20 in working with lawmakers from Trump’s party, the top Republicans in Congress on Sunday still had not acknowledged the former vice president as the winner.
“The work starts right away,” Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield said on Sunday on NBC.
Bedingfield said Biden planned to launch a coronavirus task force on Monday to plot the way forward, led by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler.
More than 237,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and coronavirus cases have spiked to record numbers in recent days. Biden made his criticism of Trump’s disjointed response to the pandemic a centrepiece of his campaign.
Biden has promised to improve access to coronavirus testing and, unlike Trump, to heed the advice of leading public health officials and scientists. Some 10 million Americans thrown out of work during coronavirus lockdowns remain unemployed, and federal relief programmes have expired.
Biden and his advisers also will move forward with the work of choosing officials to serve in his administration.
Biden adviser Jen Psaki pressed for the Trump-appointed head of the General Services Administration to quickly recognise Biden as the president-elect, which would free up money for the transition and clear the way for Biden’s team to begin putting in place the transition process at agencies.
“America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signaling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” Psaki said in a Twitter posting.
A GSA official said on Sunday that this step had not been taken yet.
Trump yet to concede
Unlike other past defeated US presidential candidates, Trump has not made a concession statement or reached out to Biden.
Trump was golfing on Saturday when the major media outlets projected that his rival had won. Wearing his trademark red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, Trump returned to the golf course on Sunday.
He posted remarks on Twitter from commentators casting doubt on the election’s integrity including, “This was a stolen election.” Twitter flagged the comments, noting “this claim about election fraud is disputed”, the latest instance of a social media platform flagging his posts.
“Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be?” Trump wrote on Twitter after golfing.
Trump and his advisors have presented no evidence of their claims of election fraud. Elections officials in states across the country have said there was no evidence of significant fraud.
Republican former President George W Bush said in a statement that he spoke with Biden and congratulated him on his victory.
“Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country,” Bush said. “The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear.”
After attending church in Wilmington, Biden and his family visited the church’s cemetery, where his son Beau and other relatives are buried – as he did on the morning of Election Day on Tuesday.
Biden has said he plans to sign executive orders that would repeal a ban on travellers from several Muslim-majority nations, rejoin the international Paris Agreement climate accord, reverse Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization and buttress a programme protecting from deportation “Dreamers” immigrants brought to the US illegally as children.
A Biden adviser said he intends to follow through on these plans soon after taking office.
Calls for bipartisanship
Biden has called for cooperation between the US’s two major political parties as he faces political dysfunction and partisan gridlock in Washington.
Symone Sanders, a senior Biden adviser, told CNN that “a number of Republicans” have reached out to the president-elect but added “I don’t believe anyone from the White House has.”
Trump, criticised by detractors for flouting democratic norms while president, has filed a raft of lawsuits to challenge the results, but state elections officials have rejected his claims of fraud. Legal experts have said Trump’s efforts are unlikely to succeed.
Senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, told CNN he understood why Trump wants to continue fighting.
“It’s destructive to the cause of democracy to suggest widespread fraud or corruption. There’s just no evidence of that at this stage,” Romney said.
“I would prefer to see the world watching a more graceful departure, but that’s just not in the nature of the man,” Romney added, referring to Trump.
Jim Clyburn, a Democratic congressman whose endorsement of Biden helped him secure the party’s presidential nomination, said it does not matter to him whether Trump concedes.
“What matters to me is whether or not the Republican Party will step up and help us preserve the integrity of this democracy,” Clyburn said on the CNN.
Trump allies in Congress refused to acknowledge Biden as the president-elect.
Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, told Fox News: “What we need in the presidential race is to make sure every legal vote is counted, every recount is completed, and every legal challenge should be heard. Then and only then that America will decide who won the race.”
Francis Rooney, a congressman from Florida, on Sunday became one of the first sitting Republican House members to publicly acknowledge Biden’s win, writing on Twitter, “All Americans need to come together to support Pres-elect Biden. Our nation will only be successful if the new admin is.”
Chris Christie, the Republican former governor of New Jersey and a Trump ally, said the president must back up his claims that the election was stolen.
“If your basis for not conceding is that there was voter fraud, then show us,” Christie told ABC. “We can’t back you blindly without evidence.”
Biden advisers have told reporters that if Republicans retain control of the US Senate, he may have to appoint cabinet officers of a more centrist bent in order to secure confirmation in the chamber.
Control of the Senate could depend on the outcome of four undecided Senate races, including two in Georgia that will not be resolved until runoff elections in January.