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Budget proposal includes funds for presidential transition, if needed

As Trump charged fraud in 2020, GSA did not declare Biden winner

Election-related funding in President Joe Biden's fiscal 2025 budget proposal includes money for candidate security and a presidential transition, if needed.
Election-related funding in President Joe Biden's fiscal 2025 budget proposal includes money for candidate security and a presidential transition, if needed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2025 budget request includes funding to prepare for the possibility that he loses reelection to former President Donald Trump.

The General Services Administration’s proposal includes $11.2 million for presidential transition activities, with $7.2 million of that set aside for the potential new president to get operations up and running.

“These funds may be used at the discretion of the President-Elect, Vice President-Elect, or their designees to provide suitable office space for transition activities; provide compensation to transition office staff; acquire communications services; provide allowances for travel and subsistence; and for printing and postage costs associated with the transition,” the GSA outlined in a congressional justification.

The GSA made clear that the funding requested for fiscal 2025 is separate from what the agency has sought in the not-yet-finalized fiscal 2024 appropriations process for transition activities that take place ahead of Election Day. Final decisions on those funds should come through the final fiscal 2024 Financial Services and General Government spending measure, which is expected to be included in the second six-bill spending package.

Following the presidential election in 2020, and after it was clear to most observers that Biden had secured the Electoral College support needed to defeat Trump, then-GSA Administrator Emily Murphy did not make an ascertainment, which delayed unlocking the Biden team’s access to transition funds and high-level intelligence briefings.

An omnibus spending bill enacted at the end of 2022 included sections that made changes to the Electoral Count Act and specified that transition support will be provided to both candidates within five days of the election if the outcome is unknown or there are legitimate grounds for a contest.

GSA’s budget statement said the ultimate winning candidate will get full access to the funds, including if that means getting reimbursed for expenses incurred during the transition up to the appropriated limit.

“The appropriations language proposed for this activity maintains each remaining eligible candidate’s access to both the classified briefings and agency employees as well as the expanded GSA support; however, it reserves the appropriated funding that is normally made available to the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect until the outcome of the election is known,” the GSA budget document said.

Elsewhere, the president’s budget requests $5 billion for election assistance grants through the Election Assistance Commission over the next 10 years, with about $1.6 billion of that being for fiscal 2025. That $5 billion would be mandatory funding enacted in fiscal 2025, according to the EAC.

“[T]he President’s Budget proposes legislation to support critical state and local election infrastructure, through a significant and sustained federal investment to improve equitable access and ensure our elections are secure,” the EAC said in its budget justification to Congress.

There’s also funding requested related to security surrounding election-related activities and the potential transition of power. The Secret Service would get $2.9 billion for protective and investigative mission requirements that include protecting Biden at every move and the White House. The president also wants an extra $70 million for security related to the 2024 presidential campaign and inauguration.

The inaugural ceremony itself occurs at the Capitol and its budget largely comes through the legislative branch, while many other inaugural functions are privately financed. Likewise, the Democratic and Republican parties largely fund the conventions through fundraising, but they are designated National Special Security Events, and the Secret Service takes the lead role when it comes to their security. The conventions take place in the current fiscal year.

Chris Marquette contributed to this report.

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