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Hawley, Blackburn push bill to move most federal agencies out of DC

Two Senate Republicans have introduced a bill calling for moving most federal agencies outside of the nation’s capital.

The bill follows controversial efforts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to move major portions of its staffers to Missouri and Colorado, respectively.

The bill, sponsored by GOP Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats MORE (Mo.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSenate Judiciary to vote on subpoena for Twitter CEO next week Government efforts to 'fix' social media bias overlooks the destruction of our discourse Trump faces unusual barrier to COVID-19 aid: GOP allies MORE (Tenn.) would move a major federal agency to each of their states.

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“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 a statement. 

According to data from the Office of Personnel Management, 85 percent of federal employees are already located outside the D.C. metro area.

The release calls Hawley “an outspoken supporter” of the USDA decision to move two of its research agencies to Kansas City, Mo. But that move has proved difficult for the two agencies, with the Economic Research Service forced to delay or quash research after losing nearly 80 percent of its staff as employees fled rather than relocate. 

Under the bill, 10 agencies would be required to move 90 percent of their staff to economically depressed areas in states already set out by the bill.

USDA would finish its move to Missouri, while the Department of Education would move to Blackburn’s Tennessee.

The bill would also move the Department of Commerce to Pennsylvania, the Department of Energy to Kentucky, Health and Human Services to Indiana, the Department of Housing and Urban Development to Ohio, the Department of the Interior to New Mexico, the Department of Labor to West Virginia, the Department of Transportation to Michigan and the Department of Veterans Affairs to South Carolina. 

Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonOcasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Hopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' MORE (D-D.C.) pledged to fight the bill.

"Hundreds of federal employees and their families have already been impacted by attempts to relocate agencies, which directly hurts their operations. Congress cannot do its job without the unvarnished facts and briefings that nonpartisan agencies give the House and Senate almost daily. I have already gotten language in appropriations bills that would block politically motivated moves outside the National Capital Region, and I will continue to fight these relocations with every tool at my disposal,” she said in a release.

Hawley described the move as a way to boost the economy of distressed areas, but critics of the USDA and BLM moves have said the relocations could be an effort to undercut their missions.

Under the BLM move, 27 employees would move to a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo. while another nearly 300 would be spread across various existing BLM offices out West. The move would leave just 61 of the agency’s 10,000 employees in Washington. 

Former BLM employees have said breaking up teams and placing them at different offices would “functionally dismantle” the agency. 

"In the 1990s, the BLM moved its wildfire staff out West, only to move them back when Congress demanded briefings on new wildfires," Holmes Norton said. 

“It is abundantly clear that these unprecedented moves are not about saving taxpayer money or ‘draining the swamp.'"

Updated at 6:09 p.m.