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Joe Biden’s lead over President Trump surpasses 5 million votes

By Tim Darnell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Joe Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump has surpassed 5 million votes, with the Democratic president-elect leading 51% to 47%.

The new numbers, reported by The Associated Press, show Biden with 76,998,462 votes to Trump’s 71,927,381. Other unspecified candidates hold 2% of the vote, in the AP’s latest calculations.

Biden is shrugging off the president’s refusal to concede the race as “embarrassing” and “inconsequential,” and is vowing to “get right to work.”

The Trump administration so far is blocking Biden from receiving intelligence briefings and withheld federal funding intended to help facilitate the transfer of power. Trump’s resistance, backed by senior Republicans in Washington and across the country, could also prevent background investigations and security clearances for prospective staff and access to federal agencies to discuss transition planning.

Biden described Trump’s position as little more than an “embarrassing” mark on the outgoing president’s legacy, while predicting that Republicans on Capitol Hill would eventually accept the reality of Biden’s victory. The Republican resistance, Biden said, “does not change the dynamic at all in what we’re able to do.”

Additional intelligence briefings “would be useful,” Biden added, but “we don’t see anything slowing us down.”

Biden is preparing to confront dueling national crises that actively threaten the health, safety and economic security of millions of Americans irrespective of the political debate. Coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths are surging, the economy faces the prospect of long-term damage and the nation’s political and cultural divides may be worsening.

Biden is betting that his low-key approach and bipartisan outreach — a sharp reversal from the current president’s style — will help him govern effectively on day one. But just a little over two months before Biden will be inaugurated, Trump and his allies seemed determined to make his transition as difficult as possible.

From his Twitter account Tuesday, Trump again raised claims of “massive ballot counting abuse” and predicted he would ultimately win the race that major media outlets have already said he lost. Trump’s tweets were swiftly flagged by the social media network as disputed claims about election fraud.

His allies on Capitol Hill, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have encouraged the president’s baseless accusations. “Until the Electoral College votes, anyone who is running for office can exhaust concerns,” McConnell said.

The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for miscast or lost ballots.

America’s allies are beginning to acknowledge Biden’s apparent victory.

French President Emmanuel Macron met with Biden via videoconference. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, among six world leaders overall, congratulated Biden on his election.

Meanwhile, Biden tried to stay focused on health care in the midst of the worst health crisis in more than a century. One of Biden’s chief coronavirus advisers, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, briefed Senate Democrats on Tuesday by phone at their weekly virtual lunch.

In an afternoon speech, Biden delivered a forceful defense of the Affordable Care Act, just hours after the Supreme Court heard arguments on its merits. The high court ruled eight years ago to leave intact the essential components of the law known as “Obamacare,” but Trump and his Republican allies are seeking to have it overturned. Justices on Tuesday said they likely will keep at least parts of the act intact.

If the 6-3 conservative court ultimately agrees with the GOP, millions of Americans could lose their health care coverage. While Tuesday’s arguments indicate the court is unlikely to strike down the entire law, the prospect added new weight to the already-heavy burden Biden inherits from the outgoing administration.

“It’s a law that saved lives and spared countless families from financial ruin,” Biden said. He vowed to work with Congress to strengthen the health care law “as soon as humanly possible.”

Biden spent much of Tuesday working alongside Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at a theater near his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He is expected to quickly name a chief of staff and start considering Cabinet appointments, though those likely won’t be finalized for weeks.

Republicans are increasingly eyeing a December deadline to publicly accept the election result, giving Trump time and space to exhaust his legal challenges. That’s when the states face a deadline to certify results and a Dec. 14 deadline for the Electoral College to cast its votes. It’s also roughly the same amount of time it took to resolve the 2000 election dispute between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.

Biden’s team is calling on the General Services Administration, led by a Trump-appointed administrator, Emily Murphy, to formally recognize Biden’s victory. Until that happens, Biden will not receive comprehensive security briefings, transition funding or the ability to communicate with agencies to begin coordinating the transfer of power.