Republicans pushing more spending cuts -- and federal property sales
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.)
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