How can Joe Biden build a government remotely during a pandemic?
Inside the headquarters of the Department of Commerce in downtown Washington, D.C., just around the corner from the White House, sits an expansive suite of offices reserved for the American government-in-waiting. The space, managed by the General Services Administration, can accommodate more than 500 people, and in the weeks before a new president is inaugurated, it would ordinarily be a whirl of activity—hosting dozens of daily policy briefings, outreach meetings, and job interviews for the 4,000 positions that come open in the federal government every four or eight years.
Today, however, that transition office sits nearly empty; just a handful of people from the incoming Biden administration have even stepped inside.
That the offices have gone unused is not, as one might assume, a consequence of President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede his election defeat to President-elect Joe Biden, or of his directive that his administration not cooperate with Biden’s transition team. The Biden campaign, under federal law, has had access to the transition space since September. But the former vice president has chosen not to use it—a decision made in deference to the coronavirus pandemic and his commitment to prioritizing the safety of his staff during a public-health crisis.