Lawmaker Introduces 'Drain the Swamp Act' to Force All Agencies to Leave Washington

uschools / istock

Agencies would be allowed to keep just 10% of their workforces in the nation's capital.

A Republican lawmaker this week introduced a measure to force all federal agencies to relocate out of the Washington, D.C., area, saying it would help incorporate more perspectives into federal policymaking. 

The 2021 Drain the Swamp Act (H.R. 5712), put forward by Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, would require all federal agencies to submit a plan within one year to move their headquarters out of Washington. The Office of Management and Budget and General Services Administration would have to approve the plans, which would be implemented by September 2026. 

Under the new restrictions, only 10% of an agency's workforce could remain in Washington. The measure would direct agencies to maximize cost savings and consider national security implications of their moves. The bill would repeal the current section of federal statute that requires agency headquarters to be in Washington. 

The bill follows a push in recent years spearheaded largely by Republicans to relocate agencies outside of Washington. The Trump administration successfully did so in three instances, moving two agencies within the Agriculture Department to Kansas City, Missouri, and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management to western Colorado. The Biden administration subsequently decided to bring BLM back to Washington, though it will leave a western headquarters in Colorado. 

Critics accused President Trump of seeking to sideline agencies by relocating them, as the moves removed top officials from the halls of power and caused widespread resignations and retirements. Then acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney conceded the intention behind the moves was, at least in part, to get federal employees to leave their agencies. 

“Now, it’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker,” Mulvaney said after the USDA moves. “I know that because a lot of them work for me. And I’ve tried. And you can’t do it. But simply saying to the people, you know what, we’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven and move you out into the real part of the country, and they quit. What a wonderful way to streamline government and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”

Others have noted that Washington is an expensive city requiring high cost-of-living adjustments for the 15% of the federal workforce that lives in the capital region. They argue that other regions should benefit from the investments and revenue that accompany such a large federal presence, and should have their interests more directly represented throughout the bureaucracy.

“The Drain the Swamp Act aims to diversify the federal workforce and ensure that a broader cross section of America’s population participates in federal policymaking,” Davidson said. “It would also reduce the burden on D.C. infrastructure and help development in underutilized properties across the country.”

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