Presidential transitions bill sails through Senate

The Obamas see the Bushes off after Barack Obama’s Jan. 20, 2009, swearing in. The Obamas see the Bushes off after Barack Obama’s Jan. 20, 2009, swearing in. Newscom photo
The Senate on Friday unanimously passed a bill to ensure smooth presidential transitions by encouraging party nominees and the incumbent administration to engage in earlier planning.

The 2010 Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act (S. 3196), sponsored by Sens. Ted Kaufman D-Del.; George Voinovich, R-Ohio; Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., would formalize many of the most successful elements of the recent changeover between the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

"This legislation will help remove the stigma that all-too-often dissuades candidates from taking the responsible step of early transition planning before Election Day," Kaufman said. "In our post-Sept. 11 security environment, we simply cannot afford to leave presidential transitions to chance."

The bill would require the General Services Administration to offer eligible candidates funding and other assistance to help get their transitions up and running quickly, including fully equipped office space, communication services, briefings, training and initiation of security clearances for prospective personnel.

Candidates also would be encouraged to establish a separate fund of campaign money to cover transition-related expenses, or to supplement the GSA services.

"Candidates taking deliberate steps to ensure a smooth transition should not be criticized as arrogantly 'measuring the White House drapes' before Election Day," Voinovich said. "Such planning should be encouraged and supported."

The legislation also would authorize appropriations to be used expressly to plan and orchestrate agencies' transition efforts, including the establishment of a transition coordinating council made up of high-level administration officials such as the president's chief of staff, Cabinet secretaries and the Office of Management and Budget director.

Federal management observers applauded the bill. "All parties, including the White House, federal agencies, campaigns and Congress, should prepare early for the safe, orderly and peaceful transfer of power," said Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service. "An appropriate allocation of resources must be available to agencies and candidates, which is enabled by this bipartisan bill"

There is no companion measure in the House.

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