GOP lawmakers want federal government out of DC

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Rep. Louie Gohmert's bill would ban new federal buildings in the federal district.

A new GOP bill would bar the federal government from erecting any new federal buildings in the constitutionally designated "Seat of the Government." Its chief sponsor, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, says the bill, H.R. 5662, is necessary to move government agencies out of Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, Gohmert introduced what right-wing website Breitbart reported is called the "Stop Wasting our Money on Palaces (SWAMP) Act," a bill whose current official title is "To prohibit the construction of any new Federal building in the District of Columbia."

Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert (CO), Kat Cammack (FL), Madison Cawthorn (NC), Morgan Griffith (VA), and Mary Miller (IL) signed on as original co-sponsors.

Gohmert told Breitbart that his bill is a "commonsense proposal" to get government agencies out of Washington.

"There is no viable reason these agencies need to be based in Washington. They could easily be moved to areas that are more cost-efficient and closer to their work," he claimed. "Centralizing these agencies in the Federal City does nothing but aid corruption, bloat the federal bureaucracy, and enrich lobbyists. If some of these agencies are going to exist at all, they should be out in the communities they serve."

But the notion of having the bulk of federal government's main operations located in Washington stems from the founders and is enshrined in the Constitution.

Article I, Section 8 expressly gives Congress the power to oversee "such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States."

In explaining the importance of this provision, James Madison wrote in The Federalist No. 43 that it was vital to making sure that no state could control the federal government:

The indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of government, carries its own evidence with it. It is a power exercised by every legislature of the Union, I might say of the world, by virtue of its general supremacy. Without it, not only the public authority might be insulted and its proceedings interrupted with impunity; but a dependence of the members of the general government on the State comprehending the seat of the government, for protection in the exercise of their duty, might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the Confederacy.

In April, all six of the bill's backers — and all 202 of the other House Republicans present — opposed the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would make the residential sections of the District of Columbia into a new state.

Several Republicans pointed to constitutional provisions in their arguments against the bill.

"This is about the Constitution and principal," argued Gohmert in a House floor speech against the bill. "Vote against this."

"I opposed this unconstitutional bill. It is nothing more than an attempt to give the Democrats permanent control of the United States Senate," wrote Miller after the vote.

In his weekly newsletter on April 16, Griffith specifically cited Madison's argument and the importance of federal control over the seat of the U.S. government.

The purpose of this clause was wise. In a federal union, allowing one state to contain the seat of government would create the potential for that state to dominate it. James Madison wrote in The Federalist that "a dependence of the members of the general government on the State . . . might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to" other states.

He instead proposed that the federal buildings remain in D.C., but that the residential neighborhoods be given back to Maryland.

Polls have shown Maryland voters strongly oppose this idea and back congressional representation for the District's more than 700,000 residents.

Republican lawmakers have long been pushing to move federal agencies to their states, claiming this will help "drain the swamp." Critics say it would be expensive and disruptive for federal workers.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.