Reprinted with permission from DailyKos
President-elect Joe Biden's transition team is well aware that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to do anything to ease the path for the new administration if he remains the majority leader after the Georgia Senate runoffs. The confirmation process for Biden nominees is likely to proceed at a crawl, and because of the horrendous mess Trump has created, Biden can't afford delays. So the team is furiously staffing from the bottom up.
They're racing to tap appointees for all the lower-lever jobs that don't require Senate confirmation, especially in national security positions. That will allow his administration to start implementing his agenda—and cleaning up Trump messes—immediately, without having to wait for the top leadership to be confirmed. It will also ensure that there's time for security clearances to be done where necessary by Jan. 20. Andrew Bates, a transition spokesman, said that the team is working on two tracks—identifying the nominees for confirmed positions while staffing everything else up. "We are working with both parties in Congress to confirm qualified, experienced nominees while hiring senior agency leaders to be ready on Day One to overcome the pandemic and the recession while safeguarding American national security."
That includes identifying former Obama administration officials and retired diplomats who would be willing to step in on at least an acting basis in positions that do require Senate confirmation. That's where using the Trump precedent of using "acting" directors could come in handy. At this point, one official involved in the transition says they intend to replace "every political appointee of Trump immediately," and "have people identified all the way down to the [deputy assistant secretary] level."
Biden's commitment to diversity is extended to the mid- and lower-level ranks of appointees, a transition official who spoke with Politico said. They're also seeing interest from existing civil service employees, the "deep state" Trump has been attacking since he took office. That could give the administration a leg up on restoring government—the people in these positions have first-hand knowledge of Trump's sabotage.
Setting up agencies to function with loyal staff as of Jan. 20 is very smart strategy, particularly in a nation in crisis. As Richard Fontaine, chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security explained, most administrations have started from the top down, with only a handful of lower level positions filled and no one in the middle to implement policy. "You get into this weird situation where a lot of times you'll have the top people confirmed and in place basically right away and the non-confirmed people at a whole lower level. […] Those in between can take literally months to get through the confirmation process."
Biden—and the nation—doesn't have months to wait to implement his agenda. The whole administration has to hit the ground running to finally start dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, to get his economic stimulus plans implemented, to stabilize overseas relationships, and to start unraveling the multitude of really destructive "midnight regulations" Trump's team is leaving to try to sabotage Biden. Being ready as of Jan. 20 to start cleaning up the disaster of the last four years is essential. Hopefully they'll also have had the fumigation team in the White House prior to Jan. 20.
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