Senate Passes Bipartisan Presidential Transition Reform

Before heading out for August Recess, the Senate passed a measure to reform the presidential transition process. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced the 2019 Presidential Transitions Enhancement Act in February to address transitional issues discussed during the Obama-Trump transition.

Under the bill, the General Services Administration (GSA) and presidential transition team would be required to enter into a memorandum of understanding which would serve as an outline for the agency’s services during the transition. The bill would also clarify the services GSA can provide for up to 60 days after the inauguration.

The bill also requires presidential candidates create and release an ethics plan for their transition prior to the election.

This legislation comes as a result of tensions surrounding the 2016 presidential transition in which the Trump transition team wrote to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee with a complaint alleging that GSA provided documents unlawfully to the Special Counsel’s office.

In a report written by the Committee, Senator Johnson, Committee Chair, notes that complex and confusing laws have bred uncertainty around the transition process, leading to the 2016 complaints.

“The information provided to the Committee demonstrated that both GSA and transition teams need additional guidance and protections in the event of third-party interest in the activities and records of a transition team,” Johnson notes.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects the legislation to save taxpayers less than $500,000 annually in the years of presidential inaugurations. This saving is due to the reduction of GSA services to 60-days from 180-days, as the under current law allows.

CBO estimates that condensing the time frame during which government services and facilities may be used would reduce federal costs for staffing and office space.

The Senate passed this measure by unanimous consent. A House companion has not yet been introduced.

Posted in From the Hill

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