A new report by the Inspector General for USDA has only one Constitutionally- suspect argument for use by Congressional opponents of moving some federal jobs to the Kansas City area. Some transferred positions involve food safety-related research positions.
Under his own authority, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is about to finish the realignment and relocation of two USDA units, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Perdue is moving the two agencies out of Washington D.C. to the Kansas City metropolitan area. About 40 percent of the existing employees accepted transfer assignments, leaving about 250 job openings will available in the KC area.
The relocation is expected to be completed by Sept. 9, the date Congress returns from its lengthy summer shutdown.
The IG report finds Perdue has the legal authority for the realignment and relocation, but questions whether it would be permitted by a budget proviso. “We found that the Reorganization Plan provides the Department the legal authority to make operational decisions that include the realignment of agencies within the Department.” the iG report says.
Stephen Vaden, USDA’s legal counsel said the budget provision is not only unconstitutional, but Congress has also acknowledged it.
“So uncontroversial is the unconstitutionality of the approval provision discussed in the Official Draft that, despite Congress’s passage of such unconstitutional language,Congress itself has acknowledged that committee approval provisions are invalid.The Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, states as much in its GAO Redhook discussing Federal appropriations law,”Vaden writes in USDA’s response to the IG.
“Some statutory reprogramming restrictions also provide for committee approval. As in the case of transfer, under the Supreme Court’s decision in Immigration & Naturalization Service v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983),statutory committee approval or veto provisions are no longer permissible,” he adds/
“Thus, the Department has complied with applicable law by providing Congress with the notice it called for in appropriations legislation. USDA is not required to abide by unconstitutional laws. Therefore, the Department declines OIG’s recommendation to ignore Supreme Court, Office of Legal Counsel, and Government Accountability Office precedent and seek congressional committee approval of the relocations.”
The IG acknowledges that “the Department takes the position that the “committee approval” provisions of Section 717(a) are unconstitutional and are without legal effect.” Her point is USDA followed such provisions since 2015.
“As noted in its response, the Department respectfully disagrees with OIG’s questioning of USDA’s budget authority regarding
the relocation of ERS and NIFA. The Department states that its actions comply fully with all applicable laws and that the budgetary provisions cited in the report requiring committee approval are unconstitutional. In addition, the response stated that the views of all three branches of Government support the Department’s position,” the IG report says.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Delegate Eleanor Holmes issued a statement saying the IG report failed to address “numerous other concerns” including the motivations behind the move.
Kansas City was selected as the new location after a nationwide competition that looked for sites outside of the Washington D.C. region. USDA defended the move for saving tax money and helping recruit and retain employees.
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