Presidential Transition Act: Provisions and Funding (CRS R46602)

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (PTA) authorizes funding for the General Services Administration (GSA) to provide suitable office space, staff compensation, and other services associated with the presidential transition process (3 U.S.C. §102 note). The act has since been amended in response to evolving understandings of the role of the government in the transition process. From enactment of the PTA in 1964 through the presidential transition of 2008-2009, most PTA-authorized support was provided after the election of the incoming President and Vice President. In the years since, Congress has expanded support for the presidential transition process to include authorization and funding for pre-election activities and support. Most recently, the act was amended by the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019 (P.L. 116-121), enacted on March 3, 2020.

As amended, the PTA directs the President and the incumbent Administration to establish a specified transition related infrastructure, with some features ongoing and others active during a presidential election year only. It also authorizes the provision by the incumbent Administration of certain pre-election transition support for eligible candidates. In addition, the PTA authorizes eligible candidates to fund pre-election transition activities through their campaigns. The statute also directs agencies to establish transition period succession plans for senior political positions and to ensure career officials are prepared to lead federal agencies on an interim basis during the transition process. It further provides for the negotiation, before the election, of memoranda of understanding (MOU) between the incumbent President and eligible candidates that specify the terms of access by transition staff to executive branch employees, facilities, and documents. These MOUs are to include an ethics plan, with specified provisions, pertaining to the members of the transition team.

Once the President-elect and Vice President-elect have been ascertained by the GSA Administrator, the PTA authorizes the Administrator to provide them with services and resources in addition to those that were provided to them as candidates. GSA’s transition support is authorized to continue after the new President and Vice President take office.

In general, presidential transition activities under the PTA are coordinated by GSA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). To receive services and funds under the act, eligible candidates, Presidents-elect, and Vice Presidents-elect are required to adhere to certain transition-related contribution limits and disclosure requirements.

Other provisions of the PTA provide for expedited security clearance processes for transition team members and the incoming President’s top appointees.

The President’s FY2020 budget proposal for GSA included a request for $9.62 million in funding for activities authorized by the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010 in anticipation of the 2020-2021 presidential transition. This request was endorsed by Congress and included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-93), which was enacted on December 20, 2019. The President’s FY2021 budget proposal for GSA included a request for $9.9 million for PTA-related activities. This request was endorsed by Congress and included in the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act (P.L. 116-158). Transition-related funds also were appropriated to the White House Office of Administration ($8 million) and the National Archives and Records Administration ($18 million) for presidential transition-related activities.

Presidential Transition Act: Provisions and Funding,” CRS Report R46602, November 13, 2020 (18-page PDFPDF)

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