Pressure mounts on GSA chief to fund Bush transition

Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., has added his name to the list of legislators pressing the General Services Administration to provide Texas Gov. George W. Bush access to presidential transition funds and resources. On Friday, Thompson, chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee and co-sponsor of the Presidential Transition Act of 2000, sent a letter asking GSA chief David Barram to allow the Bush campaign access to transition facilities, services and briefings. Earlier in the week, Reps. Steve Horn, R-Calif., and Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., sent a similar letter asking Barram to release $7.1 million in transition funds. "I believe that anything less than full transition support runs the risk of damage to our country," Thompson wrote. According to Thompson, the purpose of the Transition Act is "to encourage early planning of transitions and it authorized for the first time the actual expenditure of transition funds before the election is even held. Because there are only 73 days from election day to inauguration day, transition planning should begin prior to election day, and the President-elect must have the ability to move immediately to put a new team in place." While acknowledging that Barram is not required to release funds or provide any other assistance under the statute until a clear winner has been identified, Thompson questioned Barram's interpretation of the phrase "apparent successful candidates." "Clearly, these are unusual circumstances and I know you are doing your best, under your interpretation of the law," Thompson wrote. "However, I believe you should grant Secretary [Richard] Cheney's request that you authorize his access to transition facilities, services and briefings for two reasons: first, because of the dictates of the statute itself and second, because of the damage that will be done if an orderly transition is hampered any further." Horn and Kolbe's letter also questioned what criteria the GSA chief was using to ascertain the "apparent successful candidates." A congressional staffer posed the same question to June Huber, director of GSA's transition support office, during a recent staff briefing. According to another person who attended the meeting, when Huber said there were no such criteria, the staffer responded: "You mean it's like pornography: You know it when you see it." "Exactly," Huber responded. Thompson asserted in his letter that the "certification of the election results in Florida is the only official benchmark we have to ascertain the 'apparent successful candidates' in this election." Thompson argued that "the delay is simply unacceptable" and a "waste of taxpayer dollars." GSA released a written statement regarding the agency's transition efforts, stressing that because Bush and Gore continue to seek recourse in the court system, the election "outcome remains unclear and un-apparent." "We continue to work with both campaigns to shorten the turnover time so that what once took a week or more can now be done in a day or within hours," the release said.

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