Presidential transition bill to become law

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 6:37 PM

For presidential candidates, "measuring the drapes" is no longer taboo.

The House passed a bill Wednesday that strongly encourages - but does not legally require - major-party presidential nominees and incumbent presidents to start planning for a potential White House transition before Election Day. The bill passed the Senate last week and heads to President Obama - a likely 2012 candidate - for his signature.

The bill instructs the General Services Administration to offer the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees a host of services once the parties' nominating conventions conclude. Other candidates would be deemed eligible based on criteria similar to those used by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

GSA will provide participating candidates with Washington office space, phones, computers, government briefings, training and early security clearances for prospective aides and appointees.

Candidates are not legally obligated to accept the government assistance, but lawmakers expect eligible candidates to participate. Campaigns would pay staff salaries, travel expenses and other costs and could establish transition spending accounts funded by campaign cash or personal contributions up to $5,000 a person.

The legislation was inspired by a report released in January that gave credit to George W. Bush and his aides for a timely and well-organized transition to Barack Obama's administration. The report said modern-day national security and economic concerns should trump political concerns about planning for a presidency at the height of campaign season.

"Everyone agrees that in this post-September 11 security environment, presidential transitions should not be left to chance," said Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), a lead sponsor of the bill.

Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) agreed. "Candidates taking deliberate steps to ensure a smooth transition should not be criticized as arrogantly 'measuring the White House drapes' before Election Day," he said. "Such planning should be encouraged and supported."

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