House Approves Bill to Smooth Presidential Transition

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

A bipartisan bill intended to take the politics out of presidential transitions was given approval by the House on Monday night by voice vote.

The Edward “Ted” Kaufman and Michael Leavitt Presidential Transitions Improvements Act (S 1172), which cleared the Senate last July, aims to help future presidential candidates navigate the transition process while clarifying the nonpartisan role of the General Services Administration in supporting the transition.

Named for a previous Democratic senator from Delaware and a holder of two Cabinet posts under President George W. Bush, it would require that a White House-led senior-level interagency transition council be in place at least six months before Election Day, and that a standing, working-level interagency group develop an integrated strategy for transitions.

The bill would require GSA to designate a career employee to serve as federal transition coordinator to support the incoming president and his or her team. It would also ensure that agencies designate a senior career official for each major component or subcomponent to oversee the transition at least six months before Election Day. And it would expand training for incoming presidential appointees.

The bill cleared the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Dec. 18 with an amendment that would require the Office of Personnel Management to annually report on requests for current or former political appointees to transition to civil service positions in the first three years of a presidential term and quarterly in the final year of each presidential term. The amendment would also adjust requirements for Government Accountability Office to report on rulemaking during presidential transition years by clarifying which years and regulations will be covered.

Because of the House changes, the bill now heads back to the Senate.

"A successful transition between administrations requires advance planning and collaboration across government, particularly in these unsettled times,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, one of several nongovernmental groups advocating to improve transitions. The bill “fundamentally improves how the outgoing administration, federal agencies and the incoming teams work together on a seamless transfer of knowledge and power,” he said, congratulating Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., for their “bipartisan stewardship of this important legislation.”

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