Biden named a former surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, David Kessler, as co-chairs of a coronavirus working group set to get started, with other members expected to be announced on Monday.

President-elect Joe Biden gestures to supporters, November 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden gestures to supporters, November 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. (AP)

President-elect Joe Biden has signalled he plans to move quickly to build out his government, focusing first on the raging pandemic that will likely dominate the early days of his administration.

Biden named a former surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, David Kessler, as co-chairs of a coronavirus working group set to get started, with other members expected to be announced on Monday.

Transition team officials said that also this week Biden will launch his agency review teams, the group of transition staffers that have access to key agencies in the current administration to ease the transfer of power. 

The teams will collect and review information such as budgetary and staffing decisions, pending regulations and other work in progress from current staff at the departments to help Biden’s team prepare to transition. White House officials would not comment on whether they would cooperate with Biden's team on the review.

“People want the country to move forward," said Kate Bedingfield, Biden deputy campaign manager, in an interview on NBC's “Meet the Press, and see Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris "have the opportunity to do the work, to get the virus under control and to get our economy back together."

It's unclear for now whether President Donald Trump and his administration will cooperate. He has yet to acknowledge Biden's victory and has pledged to mount legal challenges in several closely contested states that decided the race.

'Smooth and peaceful transfer of power'

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 signalling 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 Sunday that step had not been taken yet.

A bipartisan group of administration officials from the Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton administrations on Sunday called on the Trump administration to move forward “to immediately begin the post-election transition process."

“This was a hard-fought campaign, but history is replete with examples of presidents who emerged from such campaigns to graciously assist their successors," members of the Center for Presidential Transition advisory board said in a statement.

READ MORE: Joe Biden celebrates election victory, pledges to unify country

Congratulates to Biden

The statement was signed by Bush White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt as well as Clinton-era chief of staff Thomas “Mack" McLarty and Obama Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

Biden aides said the president-elect and transition team had been in touch with Republican lawmakers. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, one of Trump's closest allies, opened a Cabinet meeting on Sunday by congratulating Biden, a former vice president and longtime senator.

“I have a long and warm personal connection with Joe Biden for nearly 40 years, and I know him as a great friend of the state of Israel," Netanyahu said. “I am certain that we will continue to work with both of them in order to further strengthen the special alliance between Israel and the US."

Bush, the sole living Republican former president, also wished Biden well.

“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.

10-week transition period

Biden faces key staffing decisions in the days ahead. The always-frenzied 10-week transition period before Inauguration Day on January 20 already has been shortened by the extra time it took to determine the winner of Tuesday's election.

The second Catholic to be elected president, Biden started his first full day as president-elect by attending church at St Joseph on the Brandywine near his home in Wilmington, as he does nearly every week. After the service, he visited the church cemetery where several family members have been laid to rest, including his late son, Beau.

Beau Biden, a former Delaware attorney general, died in 2015 from cancer. Before his death, he had encouraged his father to make a third run for the White House.

Biden said on Saturday in a victory speech that he would announce a task force of scientists and experts on Monday to develop a “blueprint” to begin beating back the virus by the time he assumes the presidency. He said his plan would be “built on bedrock science” and “constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern.”

Murthy, who had advised Biden during the campaign, was named to a four-year term as surgeon general in 2014 by President Obama. Murthy was asked to resign by Trump months into the Republican's term. Kessler was appointed as FDA commissioner by President George H.W. Bush and served in the position through President Clinton's first term in the White House.

READ MORE: US election 2020: Biden takes Pennsylvania to become US president-elect

'Nuts and bolts'

Biden senior adviser Ted Kaufman said the transition team will focus on the "nuts and bolts” of building the new administration in coming days.

Biden may not make top Cabinet choices for weeks. But he built his presidential run around bipartisanship and he has spent the days since Tuesday's election pledging to be a president for all Americans. That suggests he could be willing to appoint some Republicans to high-profile administration positions.

Many former Republican officeholders broke with Trump to endorse Biden’s campaign. Biden's selection of some of them to join the new government could appease Senate Republicans, who may have to confirm many of Biden's choices for top jobs. The GOP could retain control of the chamber after two special elections in Georgia on January 5.

Still, too much across-the-aisle cooperation could draw the ire of progressives. Some already worry that uncooperative Senate Republicans could force Biden to scale back his ambitious campaign promises to expand access to health care and lead a post-pandemic economic recovery that relies on federal investment in green technology and jobs to help combat climate change.

“I think there will be a huge misuse of the word ‘unity’ to imply that we need to water down the ideas that Joe Biden just campaigned on,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He said the country was more united around bold solutions to big problems than small-scale efforts.

'Baseless legal strategies'

Biden's efforts at bipartisan reconciliation could still be derailed by Trump's refusing to concede the race.

Symone Sanders, a Biden campaign senior adviser, said that while several Republican lawmakers have been in contact with the president-elect in recent days, the campaign has yet to hear from White House officials.

“I think the White House has made clear what their strategy is here and that they are going to continue to participate and push forward these flailing and, in many — in many respects, baseless legal strategies," Sanders said on CNN's “State of the Union."

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Trump had a right to pursue recounts and legal challenges. But he noted that those efforts will unlikely change the outcome and he urged the president to dial back his rhetoric.

“I think one has to be careful in the choice of words. I think when you say the election was corrupt or stolen or rigged that that's unfortunately rhetoric that gets picked up by authoritarians around the world. And I think it also discourages confidence in our democratic process here at home," Romney said on NBC.

READ MORE: What’s next for Trump?

 'Accept the inevitable' 

The Trump campaign has mounted legal challenges to the results in several states, but no evidence has emerged so far of any widespread irregularities that would affect the results.

Giuliani told the Fox News show "Sunday Morning Futures" that Trump's team would file a lawsuit in Pennsylvania on Monday against officials "for violating civil rights, for conducting an unfair election (and) for violating the law of the state."

"The first lawsuit will be Pennsylvania. The second will either be Michigan or Georgia. And over the course of the week, we should get it all pulled together," Giuliani said.

First Lady Melania Trump also chipped in Sunday, tweeting: "The American people deserve fair elections."

Biden received nearly 74.6 million votes to Trump's 70.4 million nationwide and has a 279-214 lead in the Electoral College that determines the presidency.

Biden also leads in Arizona, which has 11 electoral votes, and Georgia, which has 16. If he wins both, he would finish with 306 electoral votes, the same total won by Trump in 2016 when he upset Hillary Clinton.

Only two Republicans senators, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, have congratulated Biden.

Democratic Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina said the Republican Party has a "responsibility" to help convince Trump it is time to give up.

Romney, who voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial, said the president will eventually "accept the inevitable."

The Utah senator added that he "would prefer to see the world watching a more graceful departure, but that's just not in the nature of the man."

'Do not concede, Mr President' 

But Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the 74-year-old president should keep fighting.

"We will work with Biden if he wins, but Trump has not lost," Graham said on Fox News. "Do not concede, Mr President. Fight hard."

In a victory speech on Saturday, Biden promised to unify the bitterly divided nation and reached out to Trump supporters, saying, "They're not our enemies, they're Americans."

"Let's give each other a chance," he said. "Let this grim era of demonisation in America begin to end, here and now."

The leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and other European countries have sent congratulations to Biden, along with Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan and South Korea.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would wait until all legal challenges are resolved, while Trump ally President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil had yet to make any official comment.

READ MORE: Congratulations flood in from around the world after Biden wins US election

Source: TRTWorld and agencies