Maryland or Virginia? Fight over FBI headquarters emerges as sticking point in funding bill

The battle between Maryland and Virginia to become the new home of FBI headquarters is intensifying in Congress — and was a sticking point for lawmakers, as they continue to work on a $1.7 trillion omnibus bill that needs to pass to avoid a government shutdown.

Lawmakers finally agreed on the mammoth bill Tuesday morning, after discussions related to the FBI headquarters went well into the night.

The political tug-of-war involved Democrats from Maryland and Virginia, as they both vie for a new FBI headquarters, which is currently located in D.C.

As Politico reported, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and members of his Maryland delegation sought to get language into the legislation that would help their home state, by altering General Services Administration criteria for selecting the new FBI headquarters site. Virginia’s delegation in turn pushed back, hoping to keep current guidelines they believe favor Virginia.

Eventually, the two sides agreed to require the GSA to meet with officials from both states within 90 days of the bill’s passage, to consider various issues, including mission requirements involving the FBI and the viability of criteria for the new headquarters.

The Maryland congressional delegation — which has been pushing for one of two sites in Prince George’s County, Maryland — released a statement Tuesday from Hoyer and U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.

“Taking into account the needs of the bureau, the cost of the sites, and the federal government’s responsibility to consider the equity impacts of agency location decisions, it’s clear that Prince George’s County is the best option for the new headquarters,” they said. “We will continue pushing for a process that fairly considers and recognizes these immense benefits.”

The GSA is considering sites in Landover and Greenbelt, as well as in Springfield, Virginia.

U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia released their own statement Tuesday related to the latest developments.

“We are relieved that it seems a government shutdown will be averted and we look forward to continuing to work with the administration to bring an FBI headquarters that best supports the mission of the FBI, to Northern Virginia,” they said.

The struggle between the states over the FBI headquarters has gone on for close to a decade, but appears to be getting closer to a final decision.

Former President Donald Trump sought during his term to have the FBI’s headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue demolished and rebuilt, causing proposals for new locations elsewhere to be temporarily scrapped.

Congressional Democrats accused him of supporting that position because he wanted to prevent competition to the Trump International Hotel down the street.

The economic stakes for the FBI move are high, since it could create thousands of jobs and provide an economic boost to the state where the law enforcement agency is located.
The deadline for Congress to avoid a government shutdown, meanwhile, is Friday.

After the GSA released its scoring system this fall, which appeared to favor Virginia, Maryland political leaders held a news conference urging the Biden administration to pick Prince George’s County for the new headquarters, saying it would advance the administration’s racial equity goals.

In a news release Tuesday, Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore said landing the HQ in Prince George’s County “is a personal priority and an important objective for our incoming administration.”

Congressional leaders on Tuesday indicated they remained on track for votes to pass the omnibus bill this week, which would allow lawmakers to leave Washington for the holiday.

Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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