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Fact check: Letter on Biden not being President-elect does not reflect Congress’ official stance

Social media users have been sharing a letter online that says Joe Biden is not President-elect and that this is the official stance of the U.S. Congress. The letter, however, while authentic, was sent by one subcommittee member and does not represent the official view of the entire Congress or House of Representatives.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Examples can be seen here and here .

The description of one post reads: “The U.S. Congress and GSA officially announce that there is no President-Elect. Now it begins.” ( here )

The posts show a letter here  dated November 13, 2020 and sent by House Rep. Jody Hice ( hice.house.gov/ ), a Republican and a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations and a member of Congress, to U.S. General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy ( here and here ).

The General Services Administration (GSA,  www.gsa.gov  ) is the government agency supporting the function of U.S. federal agencies. The GSA releases funding and supports the transition for an incoming president, but has not yet recognized the Democrat Biden’s victory this year, denying him access to federal office space and resources ( here ).

The letter shown in the posts is accurate but is presented by one member of Congress  ( here ). It would be incorrect to say Congress or the House of Representatives as a whole officially endorse the arguments brought forth in a letter from one subcommittee member.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, confirmed to Reuters that the House of Representatives as a whole had not made an official announcement saying that there was no President-elect.

In the letter, Hice refers to another letter sent to Murphy by Democratic House members on Nov. 9, 2020. This can be seen here . Similarly, this letter reflects the views of some Democratic Representatives but not Congress’ official stance.

The letter by the Democratic House members asks Murphy, a Republican appointee of President Donald Trump, to provide a briefing on plans to implement the Presidential Transition Act. It asks why the outcome – Biden’s victory called by the major U.S. news organizations based on vote counts reported by state electoral authorities - is not apparent and what actions are being taken to ascertain (recognize?) the President-elect and Vice President-elect. The letter sent by Democratic House Members also asks Murphy whether Trump or White House officials had directed Murphy to “block the commencement of the presidential transition.”

Hice wrote in his letter to Murphy that the Democratic House Members “misrepresented the facts surrounding your responsibilities under the Presidential Transition Act” and that Biden is not yet eligible to receive government-funded transition assistance. Hice writes in the letter: “There are enough state contests in question, such that there is not yet an apparent President or Vice-President-Elect.”

The Presidential Transition Act ( here ) requires the GSA to support a president-elect’s transition. More information about the act and the role of the GSA can be found here here .

The act uses the term “President-elect” to refer to the “apparent” winner of the election. However, the act states that the winner is determined by the administrator of the GSA, which still has not recognized Biden’s victory as of this article’s publication ( here ). The Biden campaign has called the delay unjustified and said their victory has been clear ( here ).

The claims made in these social media posts are based on a letter sent by one Republican member of Congress, Jody Hice, responding to another letter sent by three Democratic members of Congress, Bill Pascrell Jr., Gerry Connolly, and Dina Titus, and not reflections of Congress’ official stance.

On Nov. 17, the hashtags #SignThePapersEmily and #EmilyMurphyDoYourJob were trending on Twitter. ( here and here ).

VERDICT

False. The letter shown is not an official announcement by Congress that there is no President-elect. It was sent by one member of Congress to the General Services Administration.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .         

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