There are 73 days between Election Day and Inauguration Day. Some think that is too long a time to transition to a new government, while others believe that it doesn’t provide enough time for a smooth transfer of power to the new President. Up until 1933, inauguration day did not occur until March 4, nearly four months after the election.
4000 presidential appointments
A hallmark of the American system is the peaceful and orderly transition of power from one presidency to the next. The size of the federal government is daunting with over 4,000 positions requiring a presidential appointment. In 2010, Congress passed the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act to put into place a formal process to help ensure a seamless transition.
Transition teams in place since summer
Shortly after the national conventions were concluded last summer, each campaign formally appointed a transition team who moved into government provided office space a block away from the White House. The Trump campaign put New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in charge of their transition team while Hillary Clinton named former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as head of the Clinton group.
A second law to ensure a smooth transition, the Presidential Transition Improvement Act, was enacted in 2015. This law required both the White House and federal agencies to set up transition teams six months before the election and coordinate with the transition teams of both candidates. There have been regular meetings of the teams since last spring.
Transitions have not always been smooth
Things did not always work this well. Josh Bolten, who was chief of staff to President George W. Bush, described what the Bush team found when they moved into the White House in 2000.
The Clinton crew was courteous to us but had not undertaken any particularly strenuous effort to facilitate our effectiveness on Day 1. They just tried to turn it over in responsible condition for us to start our jobs. — Josh Bolten
Bush developed transition plan
The Bush White House learned a lesson from its transition experience, and President Bush was determined to make the process work better for future Presidents. Bush told Bolten that the 2008 transition would be “the first modern presidential transition at a time when the United States itself was under threat,” and that it had to be done right.
To the credit of the Bush White House, they could not have been better partners with us. The success of the transition planning was in large measure because of the cooperation we got from the Bush White House. — Chris Lu, Executive Director Obama transition team
Clinton would have easier transition
The day after the election one of the two transition teams will cease to exist, and the size of the team of the incoming President will swell. If Hillary Clinton is elected, the transition of power will be a smoother process. Not only have the Clinton’s lived in the White House for eight years during President Bill Clinton’s two terms in office, but Mrs. Clinton is familiar with many of the players in the Obama administration. There will be many members of the current executive branch that will be reappointed to their positions.
Trump has never been in government
If Donald Trump wins the election, the process will be more complicated and result in a very different looking executive branch. Few members of the Obama administration would be invited to continue in their jobs under Mr. Trump, resulting in more new people coming to Washington. Donald Trump has never served in government, and his learning curve will be steeper than that of Mrs. Clinton who has been in Washington for the past 25 years.
Both candidates have made numerous promises during the campaign for things they will accomplish during their first hundred days in office. Mr. Trump has pledged to change the nation’s immigration policy, repeal Obamacare and change the trade laws. Mrs. Clinton has also promised to change the immigration laws and put forth a program to rebuild the country’s aging infrastructure within her first hundred days in office.
Typically, the new President enjoys a ‘honeymoon’ period with the public and Congress as everyone is happy that the long election is finally over and the country can get back to work. Whether such a ‘honeymoon’ is offered this year is open to question, but it’s a nice tradition in American politics that serves the country well. For better or worse, the new President will be sworn in on January 20, 2017, and the nation will embark on a new path.