Joe Biden said Donald Trump's refusal to concede the election was "an embarrassment", vowing to move forward with the presidential transition despite resistance from the White House and Republican leaders.
Mr Biden, answering questions for the first time since he was declared the winner of the 2020 election, intensified his criticism of the president, who continued to baselessly allege voter fraud, and said Trump’s denial would “not help his legacy”.
Though the situation at the White House has caused deepening alarm over whether the US would witness a smooth transfer of power that has been a hallmark of American democracy for generations, Mr Biden promised his team was “going to get right to work” confronting the compounding crises facing the nation.
Pointing to unfounded claims of voter fraud, Mr Trump, with the support of senior Republicans in Washington, has maintained that the election is not over and is contesting the results in several states, despite it being called for Mr Biden on Saturday morning almost four days after the polls closed.
In a call with reporters on Monday, transition officials said the General Services Administration had yet to issue a letter of "ascertainment" that would recognise Mr Biden as the president-elect and allow his team to begin the transfer of power.
Until the decision is made, Mr Biden’s staff cannot meet with their counterparts in the White House and other federal agencies, begin to perform background checks for potential appointees or receive security briefings.
Mr Biden insisted the delay “does not change the dynamic at all of what we’re able to do”.
Receiving the intelligence briefings that are traditionally shared with the incoming president “would be useful,” he said, but added: “We don’t see anything slowing us down, quite frankly.”
Mr Biden was joined by the vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris, at a theatre near his home in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, where they delivered remarks after the US supreme court heard the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act.
The Democratic leadership have vowed to protect and expand the signature legislation from the Obama administration, in which Mr Biden served as vice-president, during the worst public health crisis in more than a century.
The US recently surpassed 10 million cases of coronavirus, as most states struggled to contain outbreaks during the latest wave of infections.
“In the middle of a deadly pandemic that’s affecting more than 10 million Americans, these ideologues are once again trying to strip health coverage away from the American people,” Mr Biden said of the Republican state officials who brought the lawsuit that has ended up before the supreme court, aiming to invalidate the healthcare law.
Democrats made healthcare a central theme of the election, and a focus of the supreme court hearing last month for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whose confirmation cemented a 6-3 conservative court.
The health coverage of millions of Americans hangs in the balance if the court rules in favour of Republicans, though Tuesday’s arguments indicated that the justices were skeptical of striking down the entire law.
“Each and every vote for Joe Biden was a statement that healthcare in America should be a right and not a privilege,” Ms Harris said in her remarks. She added: “And Joe Biden won this election decisively.”
Yet few Republicans have recognised Mr Biden as the president-elect. On Tuesday, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, predicted, with a grin that may have indicated he was attempting humour, "a smooth transition to a second Trump administration".
On Capitol Hill, where only a handful of Republicans, have acknowledged Mr Biden's victory, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, indicated that Mr Trump would have until the December 14th deadline for the electoral college to cast its votes to pursue his legal challenges.
“Until the electoral college votes, anyone who is running for office can exhaust concerns,” Mr McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. He added: “There will be, apparently, litigation. Those cases will be decided. And then the electoral college will meet. And then we’ll have the inauguration.”
Mr Biden laughed off Mr Pompeo’s comments and expressed confidence that Republicans would eventually recognise him as the president-elect. Though he had not spoken to Mr McConnell yet, he anticipated that they would connect soon.
“The whole GOP has been put in a position, with a few notable exceptions, of being mildly intimidated by the sitting president,” Mr Biden said.
Even as Republicans refuse to recognise Biden, world leaders are doing so. Mr Biden spoke with four European leaders on Tuesday, including Taoiseach Micheál Martin. British prime minister Boris Johnson was the first to speak to the former vice-president, while the German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron also spoke to Mr Biden by phone. The former vice-president discussed Northern Ireland and the Belfast Agreement with Mr Johnson, the Biden transition team said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Mr Biden also spoke with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,and Turkish president, Tayyip Erdogan, have also congratulated Biden on the election, as have Canada. China and Russia have yet to speak up.
“I’m letting them know that America’s back,” Biden said, characterising his conversations with America’s allies. “We’re back in the game.”– The Guardian