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Republicans pushing more spending cuts -- and federal property sales

By Ed O'Keefe

Republicans have whipped out their cost-cutting scissors again this week by targeting federal salaries and property as they push to pay down the deficit.

House Republicans are promoting a bill that would sell off $18 billion of excess federal property and direct most of the proceeds to pay down the debt. The GOP's ongoing YouCut contest selected the bill as this week's proposal most popular with the Republican base.

The plan to sell off government land has been one of the contest's options since it started four weeks ago and rose to the top a week after President Obama ordered federal agencies to identify $8 billion in savings by closing or consolidating more than 70,000 federal facilities that are vacant or underused -- ranging from downtown office buildings to shacks along the Appalachian Trail.

But the process of divesting government property gets drawn out by laws requiring agencies to first offer the space at no cost to other agencies, state and local governments and nonprofits.

Republicans said their bill would speed up the process -- and they think the idea can earn Democratic support since then-Sen. Barack Obama seemed to support such a plan back in 2006.

"A dollar wasted on a building not being used is a dollar that's not going to someone who needs the help," Obama said at a hearing on excess federal property.

Meantime in the Senate John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) are fronting amendments to the Senate jobs bill that freeze federal worker salaries, mandate 5 percent agency budget cuts and also sell off excess government land. Thune called his proposal "a no-brainer" on the Senate floor on Monday.

Federal worker union leaders blasted the proposals: “Capping the number of federal employees is an ideological response that will end up costing the government more money for less quality,” said National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley.

But as Congress toils away, the Obama administration continues to introduce cost-cutting moves of all sorts. There's last week's plan to close government buildings, the Treasury Department's plan to pay government benefits by direct deposit, changes to the federal hiring process that officials say will save time and money and ... still more to come. (Stay tuned.)

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | June 15, 2010; 3:14 PM ET
Categories:  Budget, Congress  
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Comments

Let us start by cutting the salaries of the law makers by 10% and by reducing their staff by 20%.

Posted by: ATLGuy | June 16, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

"A dollar wasted on a building not being used is a dollar that's not going to someone who needs the help,"

This is why trying to save money is pointless. One could just as easily argue that maintaining an unused building is stimulus.

The reality is that a dollar wasted on a building not being used is a dollar not stolen from your children and grandchildren't futures.

Posted by: seraphina21 | June 16, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

as ALTguy says, lets cut congress's salary by 10%, the number on their staff by 20%, and cut their salary to 50 K each.

Then, lets sell off the free parking for congress at the airport,limit the flights from their home state to washington to the number of times congress is required to meet, and close the dinning room in both the senate and house.
Then we close the banking that happens in congress too.

what else?
the year after we cut the staff by 20%, lets cut it futher.. no more than 3 staff per congresscritter. and lets end the extra pay that those who serve on or head committees receive... it's a waste of our tax dollar.

Posted by: newagent99 | June 16, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

To all of the Republican senators who are trying to make their fiscal "bones" with cost cutting ideas that have never worked in the past, I ask, Where in the name of God were you when Dumbya and The Dick were running two wars on borrowed money that never got into the budgets, but ended up on the rolls of our national debt? The answer is simple, you were out of touch, just as out of touch as you are NOW. Yes, sell the building, if no other agency needs it, or no state wants it, or no non-profit wants to claim it, and that process may only take a year or two to progress to the point of actual sale. I live where the government is trying to sell about 20 acres of land that adjoins a now-closed army ammunition plant. Guess what, there are no buyers, so don't count that money in your budget solutions. Freeze federal pay, another dead-head idea. Why don't you start by taking a 20% pay cut, yourself? You only work about 60% of the time, so giving up 20% still leaves you overpaid. The Republicans have done no work in the last 18 months, so they should have to give back all of their pay. When you want to start talking sense, come back. Until then just shut up.

Posted by: ronjeske | June 16, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Once again, the morons we have in Congress don't even know how their own government works.

The laws requiring agencies to offer their unused facilities for use by other government agencies were designed and implemented so that the Government would not waste money building new facilities when perfectly acceptable and useful alternatives were available to them. These laws save the tax payer lots of money.

Placing a hiring freeze on Federal employees saves no money. In fact, it results in more cost to the tax payer. When the Government is prevented from hiring a Federal employee to perform a mandated service or function to the country, that service has to be performed by a contracted employee - a consultant. Consultants cost way more than Federal employees.

The Federal government began a major effort to replace consultants with Federal employees back when Bush was in office. I know, I was a consultant at one point and made way more than the Government salary I now earn; and I work a heck of a lot harder.

Federal agencies do not operate with a plethora of funds. When their budgets get cut, they have to rob Peter to pay Paul. That usually means one essential function takes a back seat to another.

Not a lot of money is saved by freezing Federal salaries either. Federal employees make a reasonably good living. It is the upper echelon in Washington that makes the big $$$. Don't freeze the salary of the GS-8 employee that makes $37,000 a year. Freeze or lower the Senior Executive Service (SES) salaries.

A level V SES makes $150,000 a year and a level I makes $200,000 - base salary. Freeze their salaries and watch all these puffy chested elitests come crawling out of the wood work bemoaning their fate.

Another idea would be, as many others have said, freeze or (better yet) lower the salaries of our dear legislators. Representatives and Senators earn $175,000 a year. Their party leaders make $225,000 a year. Congress gives itself a raise consistently. Members did not receive pay raises in 2007 because a partisan standoff prevented Republicans from completing their annual spending bills that year. It had nothing to do with fiscal responsibility.

Other than that, Pelosi did a weak copycat ploy in her decision to freeze Congressional Salaries for 2010 - after O'bama froze the White House Staff's salaries. If she hadn't been forced into it, she would have gone ahead and made sure everyone in Congress got their raise this year too.

Posted by: cgteddy911 | June 16, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

The fact that right-wingers think cutting the salaries would in any way cut the deficit issue is so laughable

If they want to ACTUALLY make changes, how about the defense budget? For billions of dollars?

Posted by: Bious | June 16, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

We have outsourced jobs. We have no manufacturing in our country so no industry so the solution is to get rid of what we do have by outsourcing our land to foreigners and then we can say we can complete totally have nothing. We as a country are becoming more third world by the day. Where does our "educated" legislature get their ideas? And why do they not care about their own?? Only reasoning I can see that this could be suggested is that we have no friends(allies) anymore due to not sticking up for them and not being their allies, so maybe the reasoning is if they have property here someone will stick up for us because of their own personal interest when the MidEast attacks us again.

Posted by: jacksjill | June 16, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

I think all the bases were covered on how we should start cutting budget -- start with Congress pay and staff! Of course, that will never happen as long as you have the career bloaks in charge! I also think that the DoD and CIA budgets are bloated and out of hand. We need to stop all the secret black funds and outlaw the words "National Security" in any budget dollar...

Posted by: darbyohara | June 17, 2010 7:15 AM | Report abuse

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