Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Senate Passes Kaufman Bill to Improve Presidential Transfers of Power

September 24, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE) on Friday applauded the Senate’s unanimous passage of the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010 (S. 3196) – bipartisan legislation that would encourage candidates and incumbent administrations to engage in earlier pre-election transition planning.
The bill, introduced in April with Senators George Voinovich (R-OH), Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), formalizes many of the recent transition’s successes and provides additional resources to help candidates begin their transition efforts earlier. Senior Delaware Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are also cosponsors.
“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,” Sen. Kaufman said.  “In our post-September 11 security environment, we simply cannot afford to leave presidential transitions to chance. I urge the House of Representatives to take swift action to pass this bill.”  

“Candidates taking deliberate steps to ensure a smooth transition should not be criticized as arrogantly ‘measuring the White House drapes’ before Election Day; such planning should be encouraged and supported.” Sen. Voinovich said. “I am pleased the Senate has passed Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act, which will establish forms of transition assistance to candidates earlier than ever before. We owe it to Americans to encourage effective presidential transition periods in order to protect our national security, support economic prosperity and promote government efficiency. I call on our colleagues in the House to support this important legislation and look forward to seeing the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act signed into law.”
“The Bush-Obama transition proved to be one of the most effective on record through a combination of early planning and collaboration between the incoming and outgoing administrations,” said Sen. Akaka. “The Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act builds on lessons learned from 2009 and will help institutionalize the preparations necessary for smooth transitions in the future.”

“Presidential transitions and the months that follow can be perceived as times of potential vulnerability for the nation.  Al Qaeda tried to take advantage of a new presidency when it attacked the nation on September 11, 2001.  This legislation helps make transfers of power more seamless by encouraging incumbent administrations and presidential campaigns to plan responsibly for a transition in advance of an election.  Ultimately, this type of early planning will make our nation more secure,” said Sen. Lieberman.

“I applaud the Senate’s unanimous passage of this bill today and thank Senator Kaufman for his leadership on this issue,” said Sen. Carper.  “The peaceful transfer of executive power from Administration to Administration is one of the hallmarks of our republic. This bill allows presidential candidates to conduct transition activities earlier and more thoroughly, ensuring that the government continues to operate smoothly and effectively for the American people.”

Kaufman also entered an op-ed by Ed Gillespie and Donna Brazile on the importance of passing this bill into the Congressional Record. The piece was published in Roll Call <http://www.rollcall.com/issues/56_8/ma_congressional_relations/48463-1.html> in July.
Specifically, the bill would:

Make candidate transition planning an act of responsibility, not presumptuousness:
The Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act seeks to make the decision to undertake transition planning easier by providing resources and educating the campaigns, the press, and the public on the importance of early transition activities.

·     The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) will offer each candidate a set of services promptly upon nomination, including fully equipped office space, communication services, briefings, training, and initiation of security clearances for prospective personnel.

·     Candidates eligible for services include major party candidates and others determined eligible based on the criteria similar to those used by the Commission on Presidential Debates for candidates participating in general election debates.

·     GSA shall distribute to candidates a report on modern transitions, including a bibliography of resources, which shall be released to the public and posted online.

·     Staff compensation, travel expenses and allowances shall continue to be paid for exclusively by separate funds of the campaigns prior to the election.

·     Provision of services and information to eligible candidates is to be provided on an equal basis and without regard to political affiliation, and are to be used by candidates or staff only for transition purposes.

·     Candidates will be expressly authorized to establish at any time a separate 501(c)(4) fund comprised of campaign monies and/or separately raised funds (with a $5,000 per person contribution limit) to cover any transition-related expenses or to supplement the services provided through GSA.

Encourage administration preparation for transfer of power:
Not every incumbent administration has made or can be expected to make transition planning the priority it was made by the Bush Administration.  Nonetheless, bringing greater awareness to the public – as well as to political and career agency personnel – of the critical value of a well-prepared transfer of power can enhance the likelihood of effective transition planning.

·     Authorization of appropriations expressly for use by the Administration to plan and coordinate activities by the departments and agencies to facilitate an efficient transfer of power, which may include, among other activities:

·     Establishment and operation of a transition coordinating council comprised of such high-level administration officials, or their designees, as the Chief of Staff to the President, Cabinet Secretaries, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Administrator of General Services, Director of the Office of Management Personnel, Director of the Office of Government Ethics, and other senior officials.

·     Establishment and operation of an agency transition directors’ council, which would include career employees designated to lead transition efforts within Departments or agencies.

·     Development of briefing materials on departments and agencies and the major issues facing an incoming administration.

·     Development of computer software, publications, contingency plans, issue memoranda, memoranda of understanding, training (including crisis training), programs, and other items appropriate for improving the effectiveness, efficiency and safety of a presidential transition.

·     The Administration shall provide reports to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform six months and three months before the election describing the activities undertaken by the Administration, departments, and agencies to prepare for the anticipated or potential transfer of power.


Senator Kaufman's full remarks, as entered into the Congressional Record:

Mr. President, the Senate has just passed an important piece of legislation that will make our presidential transitions safer.  The Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act, which I introduced in April along with Senators Voinovich, Akaka, and Lieberman – and which has also been cosponsored by Senators Carper and Collins – is a bipartisan bill and the product of research into best practices from recent transitions.

With input from the General Services Administration, and following the release of new studies by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service and presidential scholars like Martha Joynt Kumar and Terry Sullivan, we crafted a bill that draws on the successes of the 2008-2009 transition.  Our nation was fortunate that both President Bush and President-Elect Obama were both focused on ensuring a smooth and secure transition.  In this, our first transition between parties since the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the midst of two wars and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, we had no room for error. 

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.  By extending a limited number of government services to presidential nominees, we can make early transition activities a normal part of responsible candidacy. 

I thank my cosponsors for their work on this bill, and I thank my colleagues for their unanimous support.  I am glad that the Senate has taken this important step.  In our post-September 11 security environment, we simply cannot afford to leave presidential transitions to chance.  I urge the House of Representatives to take swift action to pass this bill. 

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