Congress Approves Bill to Improve Presidential Transitions

WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) released the following statements after Congress unanimously approved The Edward “Ted” Kaufman and Michael Leavitt Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015, bipartisan legislation that would help presidential candidates navigate the transition process and manage a smooth transition into the executive office.

“I’m pleased that Congress has moved quickly to pass this important, bipartisan legislation that builds on the work of my friend and former colleague, Ted Kaufman,” Ranking Member Carper said. “Given the challenges facing our country today, both at home and abroad, Congress should do all that it can to ensure an orderly transition from one administration to the next. This legislation will help to ensure that presidential candidates, including those running in the 2016 election have the resources needed to hit the ground running on day one as Commander in Chief. I thank my co-sponsor, Senator Johnson, and our counterparts in the House, Representatives Chaffetz and Cummings for their teamwork in moving this bill through Congress. I urge President Obama to sign this legislation into law quickly so it can be helpful to all of our candidates, regardless of their party, in the upcoming presidential election.”

“This bill helps to make the transition as smooth as possible from one White House administration to another,” Chairman Johnson said. “Handing over the keys to the entire $3.9 trillion federal government is a colossal undertaking. I was pleased to cosponsor this legislation with Senator Carper and I’m glad the Senate has passed this bill to streamline the transition process.”

The Edward “Ted” Kaufman and Michael Leavitt Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015 was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives, as well as the Senate. This bipartisan legislation builds on the Presidential Transition Act of 2010 championed by former Delaware Senator Ted Kauffman, and incorporates many of the lessons learned from the experiences of former Senator Kaufman and former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt when they served on the Obama and Romney transition teams.

“All governments, especially in the post 9/11 era, are at their most vulnerable during a transfer of power. I was keenly aware of this when I was part of the team in charge of the Obama-Biden transition in 2008. I realized there was not nearly enough time between an election day in November and an inauguration day in January to adequately prepare for a new presidency,” former Senator Kaufman wrote in an August 2015 op-ed for the Delaware News Journal, “What do we do now?

The Presidential Transitions Improvements Act would ensure that a senior-level, White House-led interagency transition council is in place at least six months before Election Day, and that a standing, working-level interagency group will develop an integrated strategy for transitions. The bill would clarify the transition duties of the General Services Administration (GSA), which is already responsible under existing law for providing office support and space to the major candidates, and provides for the designation of a career employee at GSA to serve as a Federal Transition Coordinator. The bill would also ensure that agencies designate a senior career official for each major component or subcomponent to oversee transition activities at least six months before Election Day, and also designate individuals who will serve in an “acting” capacity in senior political positions during a transition by not later than September 15 of a presidential election year. The bill would also expand training available to incoming presidential appointees.

The bipartisan legislation draws on lessons learned from past presidential transitions and the work of the Partnership for Public Service in its “Ready to Govern” initiative to expand training available to incoming presidential candidates and appointees.