Transition to Biden is necessary for confronting Covid crisis, says manufacturing group CEO

  • "We don't want to have the chance that we're going to miss one beat when the next president takes office," National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons told CNBC.
  • The industry group is calling on the Trump administration to formally begin a transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden despite ongoing legal challenges to the election.
  • "Right now, there is no more urgent priority than containing this pandemic and ensuring that our economy can heal and recover," Timmons said.

The Trump administration should formally begin a transition to President-elect Joe Biden, the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons, told CNBC on Thursday, calling it a necessary step in order for the U.S. to adequately respond to the "urgent" coronavirus pandemic.

"If Joe Biden is our next president — and frankly, by all signs, it looks like he will be — then we want to make sure he is prepared and his team is prepared to hit the ground running right from Day One," Timmons said on "Closing Bell."

And with Inauguration Day set for Jan. 20, that is hopefully going to be coinciding with critical steps to distribute a coronavirus vaccine, Timmons said, further underscoring the need for Biden's team to be up to speed. "We don't want to have the chance that we're going to miss one beat when the next president takes office."

Trump has refused to concede the presidential election to Biden, despite numerous media organizations including NBC News calling the race almost two weeks ago. The president's campaign is waging numerous legal fights in key battleground states, as well as filing for a partial vote recount in Wisconsin, a state Biden won. Trump has falsely claimed he prevailed in the election and asserted, without evidence, that there has been rampant voter fraud designed to favor Biden.

Timmons, whose Washington-based group is the largest manufacturers association in the U.S., said the Trump campaign has the right to raise legal disputes in courts. But, Timmons said, that should not preclude the Trump administration from beginning a formal transition of power to Biden in the event the lawsuits fail. To date, most of the Trump campaign's legal challenges have been unsuccessful.

Specifically, the National Association of Manufacturers is calling on the administrator of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, to sign a letter of ascertainment for the election results— a key procedural step enabling Biden's transition team access to federal resources. That action by the GSA would allow for coordination between Biden's and Trump's health officials, Timmons said.

"We have a quarter-million Americans who have died, and in the process, it has absolutely destroyed our economy," said Timmons, who in April was appointed by Trump to an economic revival group in response to the pandemic. "Right now, there is no more urgent priority than containing this pandemic and ensuring that our economy can heal and recover, and that we don't lose more Americans to this terrible disease," he added.

For manufacturers, in particular, Timmons said it's important that companies that are working to produce personal protective equipment, as well as the vaccine, "have complete and seamless work with the federal government."

Earlier this week, Biden said "more people may die" if the Trump administration did not begin to coordinate and share information on coronavirus vaccine distribution plans. "How do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated? What's the game plan? It's a huge, huge, huge undertaking," Biden told reporters Monday after a speech on the economy.

The White House has pushed back on criticism over the implications of transition delays and vaccine distribution. Spokesman Judd Deere told CNBC earlier this week that the administration has "been working non-stop for months with states, territories, tribes, local public health programs and their partners on distribution plans."

Deere also told CNBC that a key Operation Warp Speed official, Gen. Gustave Perna, and his deputy "confirmed preparedness to ship vaccine doses to every zip code in America within 24 hours of the issuance of an EUA [emergency use authorization] by the FDA."

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