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S. 2269 (116th): SWAMP Act

Should more federal departments and agencies be situated outside the nation’s capital?


Since 1947, federal law has required all agencies and departments be located in or around Washington, D.C.

But that may be changing slightly under the Trump Administration. The Agriculture Department announced in June that it would relocate two agencies to Kansas City, while the Interior Department announced in July that it would relocate one of its agencies to Colorado.

What the bill does

The SWAMP Act, or Strategic Withdrawal of Agencies for Meaningful Placement Act, would repeal the federal law requiring executive branch agencies be located in or around the nation’s capital. Presumably, it’s a play on the President’s 2016 campaign pledge to “drain the swamp”.

In an effort to encourage the existing D.C.-area agencies to move, the bill would also prevent such agencies or departments from entering new lease agreements, or engaging in new construction or renovations to their current D.C.-area buildings.

It was introduced in the Senate on July 25 as bill number S. 2269, by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the bill will spread federal agencies and departments out across a far wider geographic area, preventing the concentration in one place and encouraging decision makers to be closer to much of the people they would actually be affecting.

“Washington-based federal agencies and bureaucrats make important decisions that impact the lives of Iowans, and all Americans. Yet, how can these rule makers fully consider and understand the effects of their decisions when those who are most impacted by their rules and regulations are out-of-sight and out-of-mind?” Sen. Ernst said in a press release. “We need to fix that.”

“Instead of housing federal agencies in swampy D.C., let’s move them outside the Beltway and closer to the folks who know the needs of their states, farms, and businesses best,” Sen. Ernst continued. “And in the process, we will see more job creation and greater opportunities for communities across the country — not just in D.C.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that the move changes something that isn’t broken, and is an expensive but symbolic gesture against D.C. and towards the red states that constitute Trump’s base.

“The National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service are already doing great work to support American farmers and consumers right where they are,” Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME1), who introduced an unsuccessful bill to prevent the Agriculture Department’s move, said in a press release.

“Uprooting these key agencies is absolutely unnecessary and risks weakening them when our nation’s food system and agricultural economy need them most,” Rep. Pingree continued. “My colleagues and I have repeatedly sent this message to the Secretary. Since he’s forging ahead regardless of our feedback — or the concerns of the nation’s agriculture research scientists — this bill is a necessary step.”

Odds of passage

The bill has not yet attracted any Senate cosponsors, although it’s only been out for a few days. In theory, most Republicans would be apt to support this bill.

It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Odds of passage in the Democrat-controlled House are low.

Last updated Aug 6, 2019. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jul 25, 2019.

Strategic Withdrawal of Agencies for Meaningful Placement Act of 2019 or the SWAMP Act

This bill repeals the requirement that all offices attached to the seat of government be exercised in the District of Columbia, and not elsewhere. It prohibits new construction or major renovation of certain executive agency headquarters in the Washington Metropolitan area.

The General Services Administration (GSA) must (1) establish a process to allow an executive agency to request GSA to issue a solicitation for the relocation of its headquarters; (2) allow any state to submit a proposal for the relocation of the agency's headquarters; and (3) in consultation with the executive agency, select a state for the relocation of the agency's headquarters using a competitive bidding procedure based on certain considerations.