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Rep. Johnson seeks to move some federal offices outside of DC

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson is sponsoring a bill to require federal agency headquarters to move out of the Washington, D.C., area and closer to the people most impacted by the agencies’ decisions.

Previous efforts to take similar action have failed, and the relocation of parts of some federal agencies in recent years to outside the D.C. area have been unsuccessful.

The Strategic Withdrawal of Agencies for Meaningful Placement (SWAMP) Act is intended to distribute agency headquarters throughout the country to help people most affected by their decisions while also bringing good, stable jobs to other parts of the United States, said Johnson, R-Marietta, whose current district includes parts of Mahoning County.

“Washington, D.C.’s swampy culture insulates career bureaucrats and political elites from the American people who pay their salaries,” Johnson said. “It’s this complete lack of empathy for the plight of the average American family and small business owner that keeps the swamp alive and growing.”

Johnson said that it’s “time to enable other cities, if they chose, to house federal government agencies to ensure that isolated, unelected career bureaucrats can begin living among, and better understand, the people they’ve pledged to serve. It’s time to drain the swamp.”

Johnson is sponsoring the bill in the House with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, sponsoring it in the Senate.

The proposal creates a competitive bidding process that allows states and communities to compete to be an agency’s new home.

About 350,000 federal workers are based in the Washington, D.C., area.

NO SUCCESS

Bills like this have been sponsored for years in Congress with no success.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, introduced legislation in 2017, 2019 and 2021 to create a commission that would study the relocation of federal agencies from the Washington, D.C., area.

In 2021, Ryan’s proposal received Republican sponsorship from U.S. Reps. Dave Joyce of Bainbridge, who currently represents a portion of Trumbull County, and Anthony Gonzalez of Rocky River.

The bills sought to establish a bipartisan commission in the General Services Administration to provide a plan to Congress recommending the relocation of government agencies with a priority place on low-income communities and areas with expertise in the mission and goals of the agency.

In 2019, U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, and Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, introduced a bill to move 90 percent of the positions in 10 cabinet-level departments out of the D.C. area.

In 2017, then-U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, proposed a resolution to express congressional support to move federal agencies from the nation’s capital.

Without prompting from a congressional bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October 2019 moved 550 jobs at two of its major research bureaus from D.C. to Kansas City, Mo.

Most of its Washington, D.C., workforce didn’t make the move, and the department continues to struggle to fill positions, according to the Federal News Network, a website that covers news about federal employees.

The U.S. Department of the Interior in August 2020 moved its Bureau of Land Management’s national headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo.

It announced last September that it was restoring the bureau’s national headquarters to Washington, D.C., but keeping the Grand Junction office. More than 95 percent of the bureau’s employees already are located outside of D.C.

In September, the Department of Interior said the move “failed to deliver promised jobs across the West and drove hundreds of people out of the agency. Of the 328 positions moved out of Washington, D.C., only 41 of the affected people relocated with three moving to Grand Junction. This led to a significant loss of institutional memory and talent.”

dskolnick@vindy.com

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