by: Liam Edgar
The 116th Congress ends on Dec. 31. and one of President Donald Trump’s least appreciated master strokes apparently will go unrealized.
In 2017, Trump promoted the idea that government must be closer to the people. So, he proposed moving federal agencies out of Washington, D.C., to other parts of the country.
The plan was partially fulfilled.
For example, earlier this year the Bureau of Land Management, whose mission is to oversee federally owned lands, which are predominantly out west, was relocated to Grand Junction, Colorado.
The administration also moved the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to Kansas City.
That, however, seems to be the extent that Trump’s desire was fulfilled.
In October 2019, Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Josh Hawley of Missouri picked up on the idea.
They floated a bill – the Helping Infrastructure Restore the Economy, or HIRE, Act – that would have moved 90 percent of the jobs across 10 executive branch agencies away from D.C.
According to their measure, the USDA would go to Missouri, the Commerce Department to Pennsylvania, Education to Tennessee, Energy to Kentucky, Health and Human Services to Indiana, Housing and Urban Development to Ohio, Interior to New Mexico, Labor to West Virginia, Transportation to Michigan and the VA to South Carolina.
A Congressional Research Service report noted that each agency must develop a plan to relocate “to an area that has experienced economic distress. Relocation proposals must include three proposed locations in one state. Locations may not be within 30 miles of a city that has a population of more than 800,000.”
The moves intended to literally spread the wealth, the senators argued.
According to the federal Office of Personnel Management, only about 14 percent of the federal workforce is in the Washington region. Yet because of them, the businesses that support them and the hangers-on who work with them, nine of the 20 wealthiest counties in America are D.C. suburbs.
The senators’ plan was to reinvigorate economies in distressed communities by relocating these agencies.
“Every year Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars fund federal agencies that are mainly located in the D.C. bubble. That’s a big part of the problem with Washington: they’re too removed from the rest of America,” Hawley said in October 2019.
“The HIRE Act will move policymakers directly into the communities they serve, creating thousands of jobs for local communities and saving taxpayers billions of dollars along the way.”
Yet the HIRE Act went nowhere.
Today, the website Govtrack.us shows that Blackburn and Hawley remain the only lawmakers to sign on.
While Republicans didn’t support the plan, it was Democrats who actively spoke out against it.
In July, The Hill reported that Democrats claimed longtime bureaucrats were fleeing the government rather than moving to flyover country, and proposed a bill requiring each agency to provide a cost-benefit analysis of each move.
“The Trump administration’s hollowing out of our federal agencies and attacks on our civil service have left us with an alarming void of expertise that will undermine the work of our government scientists and researchers for years to come,” Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia Democrat argued.
Thus, as this Congress ends, and Trump seems set to leave, resistance to all things Trump and the bureaucracy’s sense of self-preservation will keep the Swamp at high tide.