Washington, DC – The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee today unanimously approved legislation authored by Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) and ranking Democrat Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) to improve the Presidential transition process and help new Administrations hit the ground running. The Committee also approved legislation changing the requirements in the Thrift Savings Plan as well as several nominations during today’s mark up.
“The Presidential Transition Act will improve the ability of the President-elect to switch effectively from campaigning to governing,” Senator Thompson said of the Presidential Transition Act. “The President-elect must have the ability to immediately put a new team in place and that team should have access to the critical information it needs to be ready to take over the management of the federal government on inauguration day.”
“The smooth transition from one Presidential administration to the next is one of the beauties of our Democracy,” said Lieberman. “Our bill would streamline the transition process to ensure the new president is able to put his or her appointees in place in a timely fashion and begin the job of governing.”
The legislation builds on a House-passed measure, HR 3137, that provides for briefings and orientations of those individuals the President-elect intends to nominate to senior executive branch positions. In addition to those provisions, the Thompson/Lieberman bill would:
- ?require the compilation of a “transitions directory” to provide senior White House staff and prospective appointees with key agency and administrative information, and;
- ?require the Office of Government Ethics to prepare a report suggesting ways to ease the burden of financial disclosure on Executive Branch nominees.
The need for an effective presidential transition and the recognized problems with past transitions have led a number of private sector organizations to focus on the problem and potential solutions. Several, including the Presidential Appointee Initiative of the Brookings Institution, Transition to Governing Project of the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings, and the Heritage Foundation’s Mandate for Leadership 2000, have contributed to consideration of this problem. These groups and others are independently preparing a body of information that will assist new administrations to get an effective, timely start.
The Committee also approved HR 208, the Thrift Savings Plan Amendment Act, legislation which allows employees to “roll-over” accounts in other retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans or Individual Retirement Accounts, to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). In addition, newly-hired federal employees would be permitted to begin making TSP contributions upon being hired. Under existing law, employees must delay for as much as a year after they have started working.
Also reported out today was S 2420, which establishes the legislative framework for the Office of Personnel to develop a long-term care insurance program for federal employees, members of the uniformed services, retirees from federal or military service, and their families. Enrollees in the program will pay one hundred percent of the insurance premium with no cost to the federal government. Group discounts based on expected large-scale volume and competition between the carriers for the program will keep premiums affordable. By offering long-term care insurance to employees in their working years, the federal government can help encourage the purchase of this product at younger ages, when premiums are lower.
In reporting the bill, the Committee approved amending S 2420 by adding the text of S 1232, the “Federal Erroneous Retirement Coverage Corrections Act.” S 1232 was reported by the Committee and passed the Senate last year. The amendment provides relief to federal employees and their families who, through no fault of their own, find themselves enrolled in the wrong federal retirement system. The House and Senate have been working together toward a compromise solution and the Committee members hope that adding this provision to the long-term care bill will facilitate efforts to reach agreement on this issue.
A number of nominations were approved as well, including: Amy L. Comstock, to be Director of the Office of Government Ethics; Alan C. Kessler, to be a Governor of the United States Postal Service; Carol Waller Pope, to be a Member of the Federal Labor Relations Board; and Anna Blackurne-Rigsby, Thomas J. Motely, and John M. Mott, to be Associate Judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
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