Statement on Signing the Federal Triangle Development Act

 

August 22, 1987

 

I have signed S. 1550, the Federal Triangle Development Act. This legislation will permit completion of the development of the Federal Triangle in the District of Columbia through the construction of a building that will serve as Federal office space as well as house an international cultural and trade center. The largest component will be used by Federal agencies, thereby allowing the Federal Government to vacate a substantial amount of costly leased space in the District of Columbia. Other space will be devoted to a new international cultural and trade center.

 

Completion of this project will achieve a number of important goals, including: providing high-quality, economical space for Federal employees; consolidating agencies that need to be located in downtown Washington, DC; advancing efforts to reduce Federal office space requirements; and furthering the trade, economic, and diplomatic interests of the United States. The General Services Administration, the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, and a newly established International Cultural and Trade Center Commission will be responsible for the construction and management of the new building. I am confident that this project will be a noteworthy component of the revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue in the District of Columbia, which is becoming one of the finest examples of the effectiveness of public-private partnership in the renewal of American cities.

 

In approving this bill, however, I note that it contains a clearly unconstitutional provision as well as one other provision that warrants interpretation. The unconstitutional provision of the bill is section 5(a)(1), which provides that the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation may not select a private developer until its plans have been approved by the Committee on Environment and Public Works of the Senate and the Committee on Public Works and Transportation of the House of Representatives. Under the landmark decision of INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 952 (1983), this congressional approval mechanism clearly is unconstitutional, because the Congress may not make decisions that have ``the purpose and effect of altering the legal rights, duties, and relations of persons . . . outside the Legislative branch'' through procedures that bypass the constitutional requirements for valid legislative action.

 

I am signing this bill in spite of its constitutional defect so as not to delay further the development of the Federal Triangle property. I do so because I am confident that section 5(a) is severable from the remainder of the act. In Alaska Airlines v. Brock, No. 85 - 920 (March 25, 1987), the Supreme Court held that an unconstitutional legislative veto provision was severable from the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, because the Congress would have enacted the statute even without the objectionable provision. It appears that section 5(a), like the legislative veto provision considered in Alaska Airlines, supra, is not ``so controversial or so broad that Congress would have been unwilling to make the delegation without a strong oversight mechanism.'' Id. at 7.

 

Section 4 of the act strictly limits the manner in which the Federal Triangle property may be developed and sets forth numerous items that must be included in the proposal. Moreover, nothing in the legislative history of S. 1550 suggests that the Congress was particularly concerned about the congressional approval mechanism. Accordingly, I am directing that all Federal agencies comply with all the provisions of S. 1550 except the congressional approval mechanism. The Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation should submit its development plan to the specified congressional committees for their review but should not await their approval before selecting a private developer.

 

A second provision of the Federal Triangle Development Act also warrants brief discussion. Section 7 of the act provides that one of the members of the newly established International Cultural and Trade Commission is to be the mayor of the District of Columbia. Only officers of the United States, appointed pursuant to article II, section 2, clause 2 of the Constitution, are empowered to exercise significant authority under the laws of the United States. Therefore, I do not understand the act to authorize the mayor to vote on any Commission matter that would bind the United States. The mayor, of course, may attend all meetings of the Commission and vote on all Commission actions that do not bind the United States or third parties in any way.

 

Note: S. 1550, approved August 21, was assigned Public Law No. 100 - 113.