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Top House and Senate Democrats Blast GSA For New Partisan Policy That Allows Agency to Ignore Democratic Requests

Apr 6, 2017
Press Release

For Immediate Release:  April 6, 2017

Contact:

Jen Gilbreath (House T&I), 202-225-4472

Christine Brennan (Senate EPW), 202-224-8832

Top House and Senate Democrats Blast GSA For New Partisan Policy That Allows Agency to Ignore Democratic Requests

Washington, D.C. -- Today, top Democrats on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works sent a letter to Acting Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Timothy Horne, requesting documents and information related to GSA’s new policy of ignoring requests from Ranking Democrats on committees with jurisdiction over the agency. The new partisan policy was adopted on January 20, 2017, and reverses GSA’s long-standing tradition of responding to Congressional requests for information regardless of party affiliation.

The letter was signed by Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Hank Johnson (D-GA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Tom Carper (D-DE), and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ben Cardin (D-MD).

“We understand that, as of January 20, 2017, the General Services Administration (GSA) no longer feels obligated to respond to requests for information by Ranking Members of the Congressional committees with legislative and oversight jurisdiction over your agency and its programs. This partisan change in policy is unacceptable,” the Members wrote.

To date, the Ranking Members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works have sent a total of seven letters to GSA requesting critical information related to the apparent breach of the terms of the Old Post Office lease agreement, and the potential conflicts of interest raised by President Trump’s role as both landlord and tenant of the Old Post Office building. The Agency has either ignored or sent inadequate responses to each letter. Both committees have jurisdiction over the GSA Public Building Service.

 

April 6, 2017

Mr. Timothy Horne

Acting Administrator

U.S. General Services Administration

1800 F Street, NW

Washington, DC  20405

Dear Acting Administrator Horne:

We understand that, as of January 20, 2017, the General Services Administration (GSA) no longer feels obligated to respond to requests for information by Ranking Members of the Congressional committees with legislative and oversight jurisdiction over your agency and its programs. This partisan change in policy is unacceptable.

Under the Obama administration, the GSA Administrator responded to requests for information from Ranking Members of such Congressional committees regardless of whether the Ranking Member was a Democrat or a Republican. Under the Trump administration, the GSA policy appears to be to respond to Republican Chairmen but not Democratic Ranking Members. It has not gone unnoticed that your agency has been nonresponsive to our inquiries since that time.

We regard this as a serious breach of protocol and an abdication of your responsibility to run an open and transparent independent agency on behalf of the American people. GSA’s mission to provide billions of dollars in procurement services for Federal agencies carries with it the obligation to ensure that taxpayers are getting the best value possible for their hard-earned tax dollars. This mandate requires that your agency spend wisely, upholding the highest ethical standards. It also requires that your agency disclose information about its policies and the decisions it makes to us, the elected representatives of the American people.

We expect a prompt reply that includes answers to all of our previous inquiries, as well as answers to the following questions:

  1. Is it now the policy of GSA that it may decline to provide information requested by Ranking Members of Congressional committees of jurisdiction? How does this policy differ from the policy of the Obama administration?
  2. When was the most recent directive on this matter issued, in any form, to GSA staff? Who issued that directive and what was the content? If the directive was in writing or in electronic format, please provide us with a copy.
  3. Did the White House or any other Federal agency provide GSA with advice or instruction on this matter?

We strongly urge you to immediately rescind this partisan policy and provide the information we require so that our Committees can conduct oversight of the agency. Please respond in writing to this letter no later than April 11, 2017.

Sincerely,

 

PETER DeFAZIO

Ranking Member

Committee on Transportation

and Infrastructure

United States House of Representatives

 

TOM CARPER

Ranking Member

Committee on Environment

and Public Works

United States Senate

                                                                      

HANK JOHNSON                                

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Economic Development,

Public Buildings, and Emergency Management

United States House of Representatives

 

BEN CARDIN

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Transportation

and Infrastructure

United States Senate

 

cc:        The Honorable Bill Shuster

            Chairman, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

 

            The Honorable John Barrasso

            Chairman, Committee on Environment and Public Works

 

            The Honorable Lou Barletta

Chairman, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Development

 

The Honorable James Inhofe

Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure