WASHINGTON - Democrat Joe Biden, the projected winner of the long and contentious U.S. presidential election over Republican President Donald Trump, has moved quickly to start preparations to take over the U.S. government when he is inaugurated January 20 and reverse some key Trump policies.
The move comes as Trump is contesting the outcome of the November 3 election through lawsuits, claiming, without evidence, that vote-counting irregularities in several states where Biden won narrow pluralities and all their electoral votes, would reverse the result and hand him a second term.
President-elect Biden and his running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, launched a website for their transition to power on Sunday, saying they would immediately focus on the coronavirus pandemic, the recession in the world’s biggest economy wrought by the pandemic, climate change and systemic racism.
“We are preparing to lead on Day One, ensuring the Biden-Harris administration is able to take on the most urgent challenges we face: protecting and preserving our nation's health, renewing our opportunity to succeed, advancing racial equity, and fighting the climate crisis.”
They declared, “We stand together as one America. We will rise stronger than we were before.”
Coronavirus advisory panel
Biden announced Monday the formation of a 13-member coronavirus advisory panel co-chaired by former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. David Kessler and Yale University associate professor and associate dean Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.
"Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts," Biden said in a statement.
Biden, during the campaign, regularly assailed Trump for his handling of the pandemic as the death toll of Americans rose to a world-leading total of 237,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University. Trump in recent weeks has said the U.S. is “rounding the turn” on COVID-19.
During the past week, the United States averaged more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases per day.
The Biden-Harris transition website lays out a seven-point plan against the coronavirus, including "regular, reliable, and free testing" for all Americans, an "effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines" once they become available and an attempt to implement a nationwide mask mandate that many oppose as an intrusion on their individual freedom.
Climate change, Muslim ban
Aides say that on his first days in office, Biden plans for the United States to rejoin the Paris climate accord that Trump withdrew from and reverse Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization.
Biden plans to repeal the ban on almost all travel from some Muslim-majority countries, and to reinstate the program that allows young people, often called “Dreamers,” who were brought illegally into the U.S. as children, to remain in the country.
During the campaign, Biden also said he plans to rejoin the international accord to restrain Iran’s nuclear weapons development that Trump rebuked and pulled the U.S. from.
U.S. transitions in power can often bring swift policy shifts but the one from Trump to Biden could be among the most jarring in recent U.S. political history.
One Biden aide told CNN, “Across the board we will continue laying the foundation for the incoming Biden-Harris administration to successfully restore faith and trust in our institutions and lead the federal government."
Trump won't concede
Trump has declined to concede or call Biden.
The Trump campaign is pursuing multiple court cases starting Monday, although there were scant reports of irregularities during last Tuesday’s voting or in the days of vote counting since then, tabulations that are still going on in numerous states even though the outcome in almost all the country’s 50 states is not in doubt.
A majority of 270 votes in the country’s 538-member Electoral College, with the most populous states holding the most sway, determines the outcome of U.S. presidential elections, not the national popular vote. Biden currently holds a 4-million vote edge in the national vote count.
Biden passed the 270-vote Electoral College majority threshold on Saturday when it became apparent he had amassed a narrow, but decisive popular vote lead in the eastern state of Pennsylvania and won its 20 electoral votes.
At that point, all major television news organizations, including Trump favorite Fox News, and leading newspapers, declared Biden the winner.
Trump has railed against the outcome, while praising himself Saturday on Twitter, saying, “71,000,000 Legal Votes. The most EVER for a sitting President!”
Biden currently has 75.2 million votes.
Thousands celebrate Biden-Harris victory
Thousands of people massed in the streets in large Democratic-dominated cities across the country on Saturday to celebrate Trump’s defeat, including in Washington, outside the White House.Some shouted, “You’re fired,” Trump’s signature line from his one-time television reality show, “The Apprentice,” before he won the presidency in 2016 over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who is leading the bipartisan effort planning the January 20 inauguration, said it “seems unlikely” that vote projections showing Biden as the presidential winner would change in the coming days.
But he told ABC’s “This Week” show it was reasonable for Republicans to wait a little longer for state election officials to tabulate the official outcome and in some cases, such as in the southern state of Georgia where Biden leads narrowly, to conduct a recount.
Biden and Harris launched Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts using the handle @Transition46, a reference that Biden will be the country’s 46th president in its 244-year history.
On the Biden-Harris website, BuildBackBetter.com, he said, "We’ll rise stronger than we were before. We will act on the first day of my presidency to get COVID under control. We will act to pass my economic plan that will finally reward work, not wealth, in this country. We’ll act to restore faith in our democracy and our faith in one another.
“We’ll once more become one nation, under God, indivisible, a nation united, a nation strengthened, a nation healed,” he said.
The website said it would also address racial inequity and police reform in the U.S. by working with Congress to institute a "nationwide ban on chokeholds" during police arrests of criminal suspects, stop "the transfer of weapons of war to police forces," establish a "model use of force standard" and create a "national police oversight commission."
The Biden-Harris website also said, “The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many."